By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – Police have launched an inquiry into the death of a leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, Mark Fulton, aged 42, after he was found with a belt around his neck in his cell in Maghaberry prison outside Belfast.
His body was found lying partially on bed. A postmortem examination will be carried out, but a prisons spokesman said it is not being treating as suspicious.
It is understood the dead man suffered from bouts of depression and was due to have medical treatment for a stomach ulcer. His influence within the LVF had declined since younger men took over who want to link up with the UDA.
Loyalist sources in Portadown indicated they believe Fulton committed suicide. One source blamed the British government for not treating the LVF seriously enough.
The 42-year-old was a close associate of the anti-agreement Loyalist Volunteer Force’s founder, Billy “King Rat” Wright, who was murdered by INLA gunmen in the Maze prison in 1997.
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After Wright was murdered, Fulton was reputed to have taken over as leader of the LVF. It is believed he was recently supplanted by a new Belfast-based leadership,
Fulton, from Portadown, had been on remand since last December on conspiracy-to-murder charges linked to the bloody UVF-LVF feud of two years ago.
DUP assembly member Ian Paisley Jr. called for a government inquiry into the death.
“I don’t think the public will be satisfied by anything other than a full inquiry,” he said. “It appears that the prison authorities are losing just too many prisoners in dubious circumstances.”
Fulton had been an active paramilitary with the UVF during the 1980s when the Portadown area where he lived was part of the notorious “Murder Triangle.”
He was a man with a violent temper, known to lash out in clubs and bars against anyone who crossed him, hence his nickname “Swinger” Fulton. He was questioned by police investigating the murder of Lurgan lawyer Rosemary Nelson but was in jail when she was killed and was not a direct suspect.
Security sources, however, believe he knew about plans to murder her before the bomb that killed her exploded. He takes that knowledge to the grave.
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has called for an independent, international, and public judicial inquiry into the March 1999 murder of Nelson.
It said it did so because, after keeping the criminal investigation under review for three years, it now believed this is the process most likely to arrive at the truth as to what happened on the day of the murder.
The Commission said that in its view the State’s duties under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (now part of the law of Northern Ireland by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998) had not been fully complied with.