A feud-related murder by the unionist paramilitary UVF in Belfast could lead to “a bloody summer of tit-for-tat killings”, according to the Ulster Unionist Party.

Jameson Lockhart, understood to have links to the LVF, was gunned down last Friday in his lorry outside a bar in east Belfast.

The 25-year-old may have been killed because he was due to give evidence in an attempted murder case.

Mr Lockhart and another man were sitting in a lorry outside the bar on the Newtownards Road when a gunman approached and opened fire.

The other man managed to jump out and run off and Mr Lockhart got the lorry moving before crashing into a lamp-post beside a loyalist mural. The gunman moved in again and opened fire, killing him.

The victim had escaped injury in a shooting earlier this year and gave a statement to PSNI police identifying a man as one of the gunmen. The suspect was charged with attempted murder and was later released on bail.

Mr Lockhart’s murder, which has been blamed on the UVF, comes amid ongoing tensions between the two rival loyalist paramilitary groups in Belfast, County Down and Antrim town.

The LVF (‘Loyalist Volunteer Force’) broke away from the UVF (‘Unionist Volunteer Force’) in 1996 under the notorious leadership of ‘King Rat’ Billy Wright.

Tensions between the two groups erupted in 2003 following the UVF murder of LVF man Brian Stewart, also in east Belfast. It led to a spate of revenge bomb attacks and shootings.

Earlier this year tensions boiled over again following a series of attacks on taxi firms. Only weeks ago there was mayhem in a Belfast court when the rival loyalist gangs clashed.

Hundreds of UVF members are said to be planning to gather on west Belfast’s Shankill Road this weekend for a show of strength aimed at finally intimidating the LVF out of the city.

Since the Lockhart murder, LVF figures in the group’s east Belfast and Ballysillan strongholds have reportedly “gone to ground”. Some have suggested the LVF could use marches by the Protestant orders as a cover for a revenge attack.

Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey said he “feared a bloody summer of tit-for-tat killings”.

He said: “I know that various loyalists are running for cover. This man’s movements had clearly been tracked, this was a planned attack, a carefully planned assassination.”

David Ervine’s Progressive Unionist Party, which represents the UVF politically, has not commented on the murder.


Meanwhile, rival factions within the UDA, the North’s largest and most combustible unionist paramilitary group, appeared ready to resume hostilies.

A confrontation between rival UDA gangs took place in south Belfast after bars were attacked in the south and north of the city.

The tensions have been linked to an attack on a north Belfast UDA member at the weekend.

Yesterday afternoon north Belfast UDA ‘brigadier’ Andre Shoukri and up to 100 supporters descended on Sandy Row where they were confronted by around 100 UDA men from south Belfast.

After talks with rival UDA leader Jackie McDonald Shoukri’s supporters eventually left the area, but concerns remain of further violence.

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