A new leader of the unionist paramilitary UVF is suspected of ordering last week's murder of Andrew Cully in County Down.

The fathe-of-two was killed in a gangland-style killing on Wednesday night, shot 10 times as he sat in his car in a loyalist estate in Newtownards.

The murder was reported to be part of a UVF purge on suspected police informers. Three other north Down men are said to be next on the new UVF leader's death list.

Mr Cully was a member of the Ulster Rifle Association and had bought weapons in Britain for the UVF, on a commission basis.

Reports say a veteran UVF man was replaced recently with a man who is ``seeking revenge on those he considers police touts'', according to the Sunday Life newspaper.

Meanwhile, two young Catholic children narrowly escaped injury when a loyalist gang attacked their house in north Belfast.

It is thought that a street sign was used by the men in an attempt to smash the front windows, which were replaced with reinforced glass after a similar attack two years ago .

The girls, aged eight and six, were at home with a babysitter when the incident occurred shortly after midnight on Sunday at Westland Gardens.

The owner of the house said her daughters were terrified.

``My two daughters had to be lifted out of their beds in the middle of the night, in hysterics.

``If it had happened an hour earlier, the girls would have been sitting in that room watching a DVD.

``It has been very quiet around here in the past 12 months and this is a mixed street. I just hope this is a one-off.''

A north Belfast representative denied the UDA was involved.

The owner of the house said PSNI police had refused to check the damage to her home or take statements from eyewitnesses. She described the police's response as ``pathetic''.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News