Ten days after Jameson Lockhart was murdered in east Belfast, another man with LVF connections, Craig McCausland, 19, was shot dead in the north of the city. McCausland’s mother, Lorraine McCausland, was beaten to death by a UDA gang in March, 1987.
On Sunday night around midnight, LVF gunmen had attacked a man out walking his dogs in north Belfast, shooting and critically injuring him. Police appealed for calm but within two hours, McCausland was murdered.
A gang of three gunmen smashed down his front door with hammers before shooting him at close range in front of a woman and her children who were also in the house.
A short time after the McCausland killing, a man escaped another apparent murder bid by jumping out the window of a house as a number of masked men were attempting to smash their way into it.
The LVF split from the UVF over the Good Friday Agreement. LVF founder, Billy “King Rat” Wright, disagreed with the UVF ceasefire. A prolific killer, he was himself murdered, by the INLA, in jail at Christmas 1997.
Since then, the LVF has abandoned any pretence at political motivation and has turned to a lethal combination of drug-dealing and street sectarianism. It is strongest in Belfast and Portadown.
The far-stronger and more experienced men behind the UVF are believed to want to put the LVF out of business in both areas and several leading LVF men fled their homes after the Lockhart murder.
The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Hugh Orde, said his men were doing all they could to prevent further bloodshed but could not be successful without the co-operation of the community.
He said an increased security presence had already stopped violence in affected areas and loyalist murders were at their lowest level for many years.
“We are fixing the problem, but we can only do so much,” he said.
Orde said large numbers of police were on the streets at the traditional Eleventh Night loyalist bonfires. He was himself present with senior officers to survey the scene.
Chief Superintendent Phil Wright said police were very concerned by “how tensions have increased” between the rival loyalists. “We would appeal for vigilance out there. We would ask people to be very wary.”
The double shootings came just 24 hours after an attack on a home in the nearby Ballysillan district on Saturday night and there were reports of other attacks in north Belfast over the weekend.
The DUP’s North Belfast MP, Nigel Dodds, condemned the shootings. “These events are sickening and appalling. The ordinary people of north Belfast do not want this violence,” he said.
“I appeal for calm and restraint at this very difficult time. As we approach the 11th night bonfires and the Twelfth itself it is vital that everyone with any influence uses it to defuse the situation.”
Lockhart had been chief prosecution witness in an attempted murder case after identifying a gunman who had fired at his van in January this year. Within a week of his murder, all the charges were dropped and the defendant walked free from court.