Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Malcolm McKeown hitman caught on CCTV

The CCTV still shows the baseball hat-wearing hitman sitting behind the wheel of a blue Volkswagen Passat.
The CCTV still shows the baseball hat-wearing hitman sitting behind the wheel of a blue Volkswagen Passat.
Ciaran Barnes

By Ciaran Barnes

This is the first image of one of the killers of Malcolm McKeown, taken minutes before the crime boss was gunned down outside a Co Down filling station.

The CCTV still shows the baseball hat-wearing hitman sitting behind the wheel of a blue Volkswagen Passat.

This is the same vehicle he and an accomplice escaped in and which was found burnt out on the edge of the Mourneview estate in Lurgan.

Detectives now believe that McKeown was murdered by members of an LVF-linked crime gang known as ‘The Firm’.

The 54-year-old had clashed with them over drug dealing turf in the months before his death.

Sunday Life can also reveal that the same gang attacked a car belonging to the crime chief’s son Malcolm Jnr in the months before his father’s execution.

A special investigation by this newspaper into the gangland killing that has shook north Armagh has also confirmed:

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÷ McKeown was shot six times by two gunmen, with at least two bullets passing through his torso;

÷ Members of The Firm sourced the handguns used in the attack from Dublin drug dealers;

÷ McKeown’s killers knew that he was to meet a criminal contact at the Waringstown garage and were lying in wait.

A source with detailed knowledge of the killing said: “The gunmen were waiting in the blue Passat for 50 minutes before McKeown arrived at the garage.

“They were at the back of the building and were tipped off that he was coming.”

Security-conscious McKeown, who lived opposite Dewart’s filling station, always parked his car at the side of the garage, away from his front door. This was to prevent rival criminals from guessing which property was his.

Around 7.15pm on August 19, McKeown walked across the road from his house and into the shop connected to the filling station.

Seconds after leaving the store and getting into the driver’s seat of his car, the killers struck, clambering through bushes and shooting him multiple times.

Our source said: “It would have been impossible for the two gunmen to see him from where the Passat was parked at the back of the filling station.

“The only way they could have spotted him is if they were hiding in the bushes, but that would have been high-risk as it was a sunny evening and the garage forecourt was busy, meaning they would have been seen.”

The likely scenario is that the gunmen were tipped off that McKeown had left the house and was in the shop.

Our insider added: “This tip-off could have been through a phone call or a spotter who was watching nearby. The killers knew he had gone to the garage for a pre-arranged meeting.”

After murdering McKeown — the fatal bullet struck his heart — the killers sped off to Glenavon Lane on Lurgan’s Mouneview estate, where the Passat was set on fire. Sunday Life understands they then ran onto Greenhill Park, where they were picked up by a grey VW Golf.

One week after McKeown’s killing, two men appeared in court charged with his murder.

Jake O’Brien (25), from Rectory Park in Lurgan, and Andrew Martin (24), from Trasna Way in Lurgan, both deny involvement.

Despite regularly attending Jehovah’s Witness and Baptist churches, McKeown was a career criminal who was involved in taxing drug dealers in Craigavon, Lurgan and Banbridge.

He is suspected of supplying the shotgun used in the June murder of Lisburn drug dealer Paul Smyth, who was targeted after refusing to pay protection.

Some of the 100 dealers McKeown was demanding cash from were connected to the The Firm. His refusal to stop intimidating them signed his death warrant and led to a fight with one prominent member of the gang that left him in hospital.

In 2011, McKeown had drug-dealing husband and wife Hugh and Jackie McGeough murdered inside their Craigavon home after a row over a £13,000 loan. Well-placed sources have confirmed his killing was not a reprisal for their deaths.

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