Senior loyalists are convinced the UVF was behind Friday’s murder of former Red Hand Commando prisoner Bobby Moffet — shot as a warning that the organisation is not going to be “messed about”.
After the daylight killing, police arrested and then released unconditionally one of the UVF’s most senior leaders on the Shankill Road.
He was one of a number of high-ranking UVF men confronted by Moffet in a long-running row.
After he was released, two other suspects — aged 25 and 31 — were arrested separately by police in Belfast yesterday and remained in custody last night.
“He put it up to them all — something to do with his family. I think he just lost it,” one source commented.
Senior loyalists say they are now certain the shooting is the work of the UVF, and that the breaking point came after an incident in the Shankill last Tuesday.
“There’s not a doubt in the world,” one said. “He (Moffet) just pushed them (the UVF) too far.”
The source added: “I think this is a message to everybody — a message that they (the UVF) aren’t going to take any messing about.”
Another loyalist commented: “The more he (Moffet) got away with, the more he thought he could get away with.”
At least two masked gunmen wearing fluorescent jackets shot Mr Moffett at the corner of Conway Street and the Shankill Road in Belfast on Friday afternoon, in full view of horrified shoppers.
The bullets fired on Friday discredit the UVF’s decommissioning and will bring a focus on to other activities.
“That’s it over,” one loyalist commented — meaning the shooting is a one-off. But the killing is going to raise questions about the status of the UVF ceasefire. Questions will also be raised about who gave the orders for the shooting, what authority the gunmen had, and what the organisation’s Shankill-based leadership knew.
Some loyalists have tried to attribute the shooting to “an individual or individuals”, people who “took it upon themselves”.
But this is being dismissed.
“They’ll say that, but it’s so blatantly obvious,” one source said — meaning this was a sanctioned UVF killing.
Dawn Purvis, the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, which has political links to the UVF and RHC, said: “If this turns out to be individual UVF members, then they didn’t do it for the peace process or for their country.
“What threat did Bobby Moffet pose to the Union?” she asked.
Moffet, an ex-prisoner, was expelled by the Red Hand Commando (RHC) several years ago after an “internal investigation”.
The publicly stated reason for this action is that it was because he was a “heavy user” of drugs, and that he had violently beaten “a large number of women”.
A senior loyalist said: “He was expelled for heavy indulgence in narcotics — namely a drug known as speed,” that source continued.
“He wouldn’t be a drug dealer, but a heavy drug user. His behaviour had become very erratic.”
Moffet’s killing means there is now a focus not just on the UVF, but on the politically-linked PUP.
Meanwhile, victims campaigner Raymond McCord has called for a rally on the Shankill to demonstrate opposition to the murder. Mr McCord was warned of another loyalist threat against him at the weekend. His son Raymond Jnr was murdered by a UVF gang in 1997.
He said last night: “A rally will let people show that they are opposed to murder and opposed to the UVF. I also want to see the police targeting the finances of the UVF's top figures and investigating how they are funding their lifestyles.”