Loyalist hitman 'hard to kill' Aiken dies of drugs overdose in Belfast
The UVF gunman who murdered ex-loyalist prisoner Bobby Moffett has died of a drugs overdose.
The lifeless body of Andy 'Hard to Kill' Aiken was found slumped at a house in south Belfast on Friday morning.
A member of UVF 1st Battalion 'A Company' he was, for a time, the unit's main gunman.
In May 2010, the 39-year-old was one of two assassins posing as workmen in high-vis vests who gunned down leading loyalist Moffett in broad daylight on the Shankill Road.
The former Red Hand Commando member was targeted for threatening 1st Battalion leader Harry Stockman after the terror gang beat up his nephew James Kelly.
Aiken was arrested in connection with the shotgun execution, however detectives did not have enough evidence to bring charges.
In the eight years since his life spiralled out of control, with the loyalist growing increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs.
He had also been sidelined by the UVF who saw him as a liability because of his addictions, and someone who might crack up and confess everything about the Moffett murder.
Andy Aiken was also hit badly by the death of his younger brother Frankie who died at Christmas last year.
"He couldn't cope and was in the depths of depression for months," a UVF source told Sunday Life.
"Andy was mixing drink with prescription drugs like Lyrica and Tramadol, his head was all over the place especially after the death of Frankie, who was a really popular guy."
At the time of his death Aiken was back living in the Village area of south Belfast, where he was born and raised.
He was forced to flee his home there after being jailed for four years in 2000 for possessing a shotgun. Aiken was part of a UVF hit-team that had plotted to murder UDA-linked loyalist Curtis Moorehead, who survived being shot by the terror gang outside a Sandy Row bar.
After getting out of jail he moved to the Shankill to avoid retaliation and joined Sam 'Pinky' Austin's UVF 'A Company'.
Aiken quickly rose through the ranks and by the time of the Moffett murder in 2010 was regarded as one of its main 'operators'.
He was particularly close to two other killers, one of whom was the second Moffett gunman.
The third member of this group, a known drug addict who has also been sidelined, was involved in the 2005 UVF murders of Craig McCausland (19) and dad-of-four Stephen Paul (28).
Our UVF source added: "At one stage the three of them were particularly close. They were blooded by the UVF to be its new wave of killers. But only one of them is still involved - Aiken is dead and the third man is a junkie."
While they will never admit it publicly, Aiken's death comes as a huge relief to UVF leaders who always feared that, battling depression and addictions, he could give up the Moffett murder secrets to police.
The immediate problem they have now is whether to give the assassin - who will be buried from his parents' home in the Village area of south Belfast later this week - a paramilitary send-off.
Although hated on the Shankill because of his role in the Moffett murder, Aiken was well thought of by UVF members in south Belfast.
In 2012 he was involved with local loyalists from the Village area in pipebombing nationalist homes in the St James' district on the opposite side of the Westlink motorway.
Aiken also used his contacts there to dispose of the getaway car used in the Bobby Moffett murder. After shooting the 44-year-old three times, he and the second UVF gunman ran down Conway Street and escaped from the Shankill onto the Grosvenor Road.
They then made their way into the Village where the vehicle was destroyed by local UVF men.
Aiken was nicknamed 'Hard to Kill' by loyalists after surviving a number of attempts on his life.