Belfast Telegraph

Search for missing 'loyalist foot soldier' becomes murder probe

BY CLAIRE GRAHAM

A murder investigation has been launched by police searching for a man once described in court as "a loyalist foot soldier".

Mark Gourley (36) from the Castlemara area of Carrickfergus was last seen in the Glengormley area at around 9.30am on March 7, 2009.

New evidence has come to the attention of detectives who are making a fresh appeal for information.

Mr Gourley went missing more than four years ago, when his mother Beryl made an impassioned appeal for information over his whereabouts, stressing that he was "vulnerable and required daily medication".

In a statement, the PSNI said: "As a result of new evidence, police have launched a murder investigation."

Mr Gourley escaped jail in May 2005 after being captured on video as one of a crowd attacking an undercover policeman on the town's Castlemara estate.

Police say they are now treating his disappearance as murder.

Early police appeals after his disappearance also described Mr Gourley as vulnerable.

Searches were carried out in the Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey areas after he vanished, but no trace of him was found and nothing more heard of him by friends and family.

Mark Gourley was one of four men who escaped prison in 2005 after a crowd attacked the police officer, named only as 'John', who was posing as an ice cream seller in an undercover investigation into a UDA extortion racket.

Mr Gourley was given 18 months' probation, while the other three were handed suspended sentences after a lawyer described them as "foot soldiers and not in the same league" as the UDA men involved in the racket.

He is 5ft 9in, of medium build with fair cropped hair.

His right eyebrow is pierced and he has tattoos on his left shoulder and left forearm, and a tattoo on his right arm bearing his Christian name.

Mr Gourley was last seen wearing a black waterproof jacket with a grey design on the shoulders, black Umbro tracksuit bottoms, black leather trainers and a blue Rangers Football Club woollen hat.

Following his disappearance his mother described him as "very friendly, from a close family, very fond of his girlfriend, and who loves his wee dog".

Police are issuing a fresh appeal for information today.

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