Belfast Telegraph

Belfast estate agent Philip Johnston found dead at his home

 

By David Young

A former estate agent once linked to a murdered UDA chief has been found dead.

The body of Philip Johnston (51) was discovered at his Bangor home in the Bryansburn Road area on Wednesday afternoon.

Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

In 2005, Mr Johnston, a former estate agent, had been accused of being engaged in money laundering linked to flamboyant UDA chief Jim Gray.

Gray was murdered in October 2005, outside his parents' home in Clarawood, east Belfast.

In a statement issued last night, the PSNI said: "Police attended the scene of the sudden death of a man aged in his 50s at a house in the Bryansburn Road area of Bangor on Wednesday July 19.

"The death is not being treated as suspicious at this time."

It is expected a post-mortem will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death.

Charges against Mr Johnston were dropped in 2006 by the Public Prosecution Service but his estate agency business in east Belfast had been damaged by the money laundering charges, charges which he had always denied.

In 2006, Mr Johnston told the BBC he had been afraid to end his association with prominent loyalist Gray.

People no longer wanted to do business with him once they heard he had been charged and he became financially ruined, he told the BBC's Spotlight programme

"There isn't a winner in this whole situation.

"The majority of people dropped me like a hot stone," he said.

"My name will never be restored.

"Anybody who talks about Philip Johnston, the estate agent, in the future will be synonymous with two things, one, property and two, Jim Gray/paramilitary organisation/ money-laundering etc."

Mr Johnston eventually sold off his remaining estate agency interests in 2013.

In 2011, he was refused a gun licence, despite having held one previously.

Following a judicial review of the decision to deny Mr Johnston a firearms certificate, in 2013 a High Court judge then decided that the licence had been withheld due to Mr Johnston's alleged links with loyalist paramilitaries.

At the court hearing, it was claimed that Mr Johnston had had a 'social relationship' with UDA boss Gray.

The estate agent had also been involved with others in a £250,000 deal to buy the Avenue One Bar from Gray, the High Court in Belfast had previously been told.

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