The South-East Antrim commander of the UDA, John “Grugg” Gregg, aged 45, and a fellow UDA man Robert Carson were gunned down in a hail of machine-gun fire as they returned from a trip to watch a Glasgow Rangers football match in Scotland.
Gregg’s 18-year-old son escaped injury, but their taxi driver is fighting for his life and another man was also seriously injured in the attack. Former supporters of jailed loyalist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair are being blamed for the murder, which has led to all UDA units being put on top alert. UDA chiefs, plotting revenge strikes for Gregg’s murder, have warned rank-and-file members to leave Adair’s unit. Police have arrested two men and seized a firearm in connection with the shooting.
The cars used in Saturday night’s double murder were stolen from the Lower Shankill stronghold of Adair’s faction. One was later found abandoned nearby. A group calling itself the Red Hand Defenders — widely interpreted as a cover name for Adair’s associates — said it was responsible.
Members of the UDA`s Inner Council issued an ultimatum on Monday. “All those in West Belfast who are claiming to be Red Hand Defenders will now be treated as such: a separate group,” it said.
Loyalist sources claim members of Adair’s “C” Company group were on the same ferry as Gregg and his companions as they returned home from Scotland. It is thought they used mobile phones to give the killers details of the taxi he was using.
Gregg was one of the five UDA brigadiers who expelled Adair from the organization last September for “bringing the organization into disrepute” — although it was widely seen as the result of a turf war over the proceeds of drugs and prostitution. Gregg had boasted of his involvement in the 1984 murder bid on Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, only regretting he had not “finished the job.” Adams was hit twice as he drove through central Belfast after a court hearing.
Gregg, who had a huge tattoo of the “Grim Reaper” down his back, was a member of the Cloughfern Young Defenders, a so-called kick-the-pope band. He was convicted after he was filmed, during a loyalist parade in Derry city, using his flute as if it were a weapon, trying to poke out the eyes of a nationalist protester and attacking people across a metal crowd barrier.
Three other loyalists linked to Gregg were also targeted in a series of bombings and shootings around Belfast on Saturday night. A pipe bomb failed to explode outside a house where Andre Shoukri, the current North Belfast commander of the UDA, was living.
Shots were fired through the house of Sammy Duddy, a spokesman for the UDA and an opponent of Adair, although he was not at home, and a third man narrowly escaped when masked men failed to break into his flat and instead fired bullets through his windows in East Belfast.
The recent shootings are believed to be in revenge for the killing of one of Adair’s associates, Roy Green, on Jan. 2. Green, who headed Adair’s brothel-keeping business, was killed in revenge for the shooting of Jonathan Stewart, an associate of Gregg, on Dec. 26.