Vandals have smashed up the grave of leading loyalist Ihab Shoukri in north Belfast.
The damage to the grave was discovered yesterday morning by his fiancée Emma Ritchie when she arrived to leave flowers in Carnmoney Cemetery.
Thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused in the destruction of a headstone and surround which was only completed last week.
His brother Yuk, who examined the wrecked grave yesterday afternoon, blamed loyalists for the destruction and vowed to restore the grave regardless of threats.
“Those who did this were obviously watching the work being carried out and realised that it had just been completed last week. They waited until it was dark to creep around the cemetery to wreck it.
“None of them would have confronted Ihab when he was alive because they are cowards. It’s only when he’s buried that they feel they are strong enough to mount some attack”, he said.
Yuk Shoukri said he believed UDA elements in north Belfast were responsible for the damage to the grave but said they wouldn’t deter the family from restoring the grave or visiting the cemetery.
“We suspect the UDA in north Belfast is behind this because that is what they are like.
“They hadn’t the courage to confront either Ihab or Andre when they were about north Belfast but they schemed behind their backs.
“None of them would have challenged Ihab when he was alive so this is the best they can do after he is dead,” he said.
Ihab Shoukri died suddenly at his Rathcoole home seven months ago while watching a boxing match in the early hours of a Sunday morning.
The exact cause of his death has not yet been established but his family denied allegations that he died from a drugs overdose or had been to a party in the area shortly before he died.
Months before his death he had severed all ties with the UDA and had moved out of north Belfast where he and his brother Andre once held top positions in the organisation.
Andre Shoukri, who is serving a nine year prison sentence in Maghaberry Prison, is expected to be eligible for weekend parole visits in a few months’ time.
Ihab’s grave will cost over £2,500 to repair because neither the headstone or the grave surround can be salvaged.
“The headstone inscription is ruined because when it was knocked over it fell on stones.
“They even took his photograph from it so that tells you just what sort of people they are”, Yuk Shoukri said.