Ciaran Barnes: David Murphy's criminal past means he'd no shortage of enemies
Murdered loyalist Davy Murphy had dozens of enemies - a fact that makes finding his killers harder for the police.
Detectives investigating the horrific shotgun execution of the ex-UVF member are examining several motives, all of which are plausible at this early stage.
The most likely at the moment is that it is connected to the livestock farmer's sideline in the theft of farm machinery, a lucrative trade that brings in huge amounts of criminal cash.
Murphy has also been accused locally of sheep rustling and stolen car dealing, all of which carry the risk of revenge attacks.
Police are probing further reports that he suffered a bad beating by a gang last Sunday just 48 hours before his murder.
Talk within criminal circles in Ballymena suggests the 52-year-old was the victim of a baseball bat attack, a claim that prompted yesterday's PSNI appeal for information from anyone who passed by his rural Ballymena home in the days leading up to the killing.
Murphy was blasted twice with a shotgun while he was in the kitchen. His murderer fired through a small window hitting him first in the back. The second shot is understood to have struck him as he lay prone on the ground.
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Due to the nature of the weapon used there will be no ballistic evidence for the PSNI to work on. Instead, they will have to rely on witnesses and possible DNA traces left at the scene. Without these, the investigation will be hampered considerably as shotgun killings are notoriously harder to solve, particularly when they occur in remote locations.
That is why detectives are focusing so heavily on Murphy's movements between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday, when he was found dead.
Another motive they are examining is his former associations with the UVF.
Murphy was a member of the terror gang, jailed over a decade ago for possessing a stash of its weapons. But according to loyalist sources he had been kicked out of the organisation and had not been involved for some time.
Among the murder victim's closest friends was the UVF's former Ballymena commander, a publican by trade who was axed during an internal cull several years ago. Despite no longer having the backing of the terror gang this figure remains one of the town's biggest criminals, up to his neck in drugs and thieving rackets.
Detectives trying to establish a motive for Murphy's killing are looking at his relationship with this individual, the illegal avenues that it led him down and inevitable fall-outs with other underworld figures.
One suggestion that they have ruled out is that the murder is connected to a bizarre blackmail plot. Murphy and co-accused Mark Hall (28), who had an address in the republican St James' area of west Belfast, had faced charges of demanding £10,000 from a businessman taken to a Ballyclare bank last year and ordered to withdraw cash. The case against them collapsed in November and PSNI sources say they do not believe it is connected to Tuesday's murder.