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Feud fears as man is murdered

Shooting in Belfast linked to loyalists

By Mary Fitzgerald

Published 18/05/2004

THE murder of a man shot as he drove to work in east Belfast today has sparked fears of fresh feuding between rival loyalist paramilitaries.

THE murder of a man shot as he drove to work in east Belfast today has sparked fears of fresh feuding between rival loyalist paramilitaries.

Brian Stewart (34), was shot twice at close range by two gunmen as he drove to work on the Alanbrooke Road shortly before 8am.

Mr Stewart, who worked as a driver at a plumbing firm, was treated by ambulance crews while still in his car. He later died at the scene.

It is believed the gunmen escaped in a silver Lexus car, registration number X9 89 VOG, later found ablaze beside Lisnasharragh police station.

It is understood the gunmen were seen running in the direction of the loyalist Clonduff estate, which runs along the top of the Castlereagh Road.

Loyalist sources linked the murder of Mr Stewart, who is believed to have connections with the LVF, to mounting tensions between the LVF and UVF.

This friction has been linked to shooting incidents in recent weeks.

Up to ten UVF members are understood to have received death threats from the LVF.

It is also understood there has been a series of brawls between LVF and UVF supporters in south and east Belfast recently.

Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Wright appealed for anyone with information regarding the silver Lexus car or the shooting to contact police.

He said: "It's a heinous crime, I can't find words to describe it.

"But there are witnesses out there who can come forward and help us find who did this."

Det Chief Supt Wright said police would be examining CCTV footage of the scene in an attempt to identify the killers.

Northern Ireland Security Minister Ian Pearson said: "This callous act is to be condemned by all right thinking people.

"I will be keeping in close contact with the PSNI as their investigation into this murder progresses and I would call on anyone who has information to pass it to the police."

East Belfast Assembly member Michael Copeland said: "It is hard to ignore the recent tensions evidenced by a number of attacks on persons and property throughout this area. We are sitting on a ticking time-bomb.

"Nobody in authority in the community is able to recognise the symptoms, never mind offer a cure."

Jim Rodgers, of the Belfast DPP, said: "This is deeply worrying."

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