Belfast Telegraph

Nightclub bouncer who became the ruthless and evil drugs godfather dubbed 'King Coke'

By Jim McDowell

Paul Daly wasn't dubbed 'King Coke' for nothing. He was a one-time nightclub bouncer and bodybuilder during the boom time for so-called 'soft' drugs in Belfast.

But he graduated to become one of the most ruthless and evil drugs godfathers to prowl the streets - often in top-of-the-range Mercs and four-wheel drive Jeeps - of his native city.

As a bouncer he saw the big bucks drugs dealers were making. Most of them in those days were independents, not, as it later evolved, loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

At that stage it was E-tabs and cannabis hash which were the main cash cows.

Heroin and cocaine were still no-go here.

Daly, standing at the doors of nightclubs and being paid buttons to keep order, wanted part of that lucrative, illegal drugs action.

In short, this bruiser of a bully boy - he once put a close acquaintance in intensive care but even after copping a grievous bodily harm conviction walked free from the court with only a suspended sentence - wanted to muscle in.

That suspended sentence brought a gasp from the public gallery in court.

I know. I was there.

Especially from one man, Gerry McKay.

He believed that black-hearted braggart Daly had brutally murdered his son Gerard by grabbing him by the throat in a vice-like grip and making McKay Jnr swallow a lethal cocktail of 11 E-tabs, forced down with a bottle of Evian water.

The reason? Gerard had refused to act as a drugs courier for Daly.

Daly was never brought to justice for that crime.

And that, allied to him walking free from court on the GBH rap, led to him being labelled with a four-letter word synonymous with many other drugs dealers.

The word is 'tout'. It has sounded the death-knell for a host of so-called informers here, whether in the ranks of parasitical drug dealers poisoning our young people, or paramilitaries living off and prostituting their own societies.

But that precarious proposition didn't faze Daly.

He ignored threats, especially from the Provisional IRA front Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD).

It was responsible for the murder of at least a dozen 'independent' drugs dealers, including Brendan 'Speedy' Fegan and Brendan 'Bap' Campbell.

And Daly was no stranger to issuing threats himself.

Twice he threatened me face-to-face.

I ignored him.

At least three times DAAD gunmen were only inches away from murdering Daly, even before his eventual demise.

I know. Once, even though I hated drug dealers, and still do, I got a tip-off, made a phone call, and Daly escaped a 'magnet', a booby-trap bomb planted under his signature four-wheel-drive Jeep.

My attitude was, and still is, that if a journalist gets a tip-off that somebody is to be killed, no matter who that is, saving life comes first, and no story is worth a life - even Daly's life. Even though drugs squad officers once tipped me off that Daly's mob had rented an apartment just yards from my home and were plotting to plant a necklace of firebombs around the house with me and my family inside.

That was after Daly had attained his nickname 'King Coke'.

He had swiftly moved on from peddling E-tabs and cannabis to making a mini-fortune nurturing and profiting from the growing narco trade, first rampant in Dublin, but which then ricocheted to Belfast, where he fancied himself as the Pablo Escobar of Ulster.

He believed - undoubtedly and probably primarily because he was a tout - that he was untouchable.

A lone gunman proved that fatally false during an unguarded moment as drugs godfather Daly dropped his partner and young daughter off from a courtesy car in a skinny wee terraced row of houses called Stephen Street, just a few hundred metres from Belfast City Hall, on the afternoon of May 4, 2001.

The assassin, believed to have been despatched by DAAD, unleashed 10 bullets into 38-year-old's head and body.

Not very far away at the time, I ran to the scene.

I saw a pair of big tan lace-up boots sticking out from under the sheet already covering Paul Daly's body.

I immediately knew it was him. They, like his flash cars and living high on the hog, were also a hallmark of the drugs godfather dubbed 'King Coke'.

Someone had meted out their own form of justice, however abhorrent.

Daly's murder of Gerard McKay Jnr was also abhorrent.

But the murder of Daly by DAAD meant that young Gerard's father, ex-soldier Gerry, will probably go to his own grave not having seen justice done for his son's murder.

And Mr McKay, who staged a relentless campaign over many years to achieve just that, is convinced of one thing.

'King Coke' just wasn't a cruel, calculating and callous drugs baron.

He was also a tout.

And, for what it's worth, I agree with him.

Jim McDowell is the former Northern Editor of the Sunday World.

Belfast Telegraph

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