THE COP leading the Glenn Quinn murder investigation has branded the killers of the popular Co Antrim man "UDA drug dealers".
Detective Chief Inspector Darren McCartney confirmed for the first time that members of the terror gang were involved.
He stressed they had "attacked other people before" and were lying in wait for terminally-ill Glenn, who was set upon as he opened the front door of his flat on the Woodburn estate in Carrickfergus.
DCI McCartney also dismissed speculation that two men and a woman arrested in connection with the murder were no longer on bail.
"Members of the UDA were involved in the murder of Glenn Quinn," said the senior detective, an admission at odds with previous PSNI statements that described such claims as "unhelpful".
"It was a murder that these people conducted on their own behalf, for their own enterprises, for their own gains. The people involved, I believe, were or are still members of the South East Antrim UDA."
Asked if the main suspects had killed before - the UDA's Carrickfergus unit has murdered seven local Protestants over personal disputes in the past two decades - DCI McCartney replied: "The people who killed Glenn have been involved in attacks on people before.
"The people who did this have a toxic influence over that community. They are dealing drugs, they're ruining lives in Carrickfergus and we as a service want to bring that to an end. We want to get the people who killed Glenn and others and bring them to justice."
Mr Quinn was murdered on January 3, five days after being involved in a clash with UDA enforcer Colin Simms (40), a convicted drug dealer and killer driver.
Simms was arrested in connection with the 47-year-old's murder but freed on police bail after denying involvement.
Glenn's killers were lying in wait for him under a stairwell at his block of flats on Ashleigh Park.
They beat him mercilessly with bats, accusing him of bad-mouthing the UDA over its repeated arson attacks on a mechanic business owned by his friend Joe Dunlop. This was also the reason for his row with Colin Simms five days before.
When the UDA mob, who were accompanied by a dog, left the property, Glenn, although bloodied and bruised, was still alive.
He rang a friend to explain how he had been the victim of a paramilitary assault. His pal pleaded with Glenn to get to hospital, but he refused.
The following day the friend alerted the PSNI when calls to his mobile phone went unanswered. Officers discovered Glenn's body after forcing entry to his home.
Confirming that two men and a woman, one of whom is Colin Simms, remain on police bail, DCI McCartney (below) said: "To date, we have arrested three people in relation to Glenn's murder. Those people were released on bail and still remain on bail. Inquiries are ongoing around these people.
"I am confident that I am aware of the identities of the people involved in the attack on Glenn. I believe there is a wider circle of people still to be identified and I need the community to help me with that."
An aspect of the investigation troubling police is that they still do not know where Glenn was coming from prior to being attacked.
CCTV coverage, which is poor in the Woodburn estate, has failed to shed any light on this.
The fact that he was killed on a dark winter night, when anyone on the streets was likely wearing a coat, scarf and hood, has been another hindrance.
A further problem detectives face is breaking the vice-like grip of fear the UDA holds over working-class communities in Carrickfergus.
No one has been convicted of any of the previous seven killings its members have been involved in, with relatives of Simon Tang, Tommy Hollran, Charlie Strain, Hugh Cameron, Mark Gourley and Geordie Gilmore still crying out for justice. This has led to the understandable local view that the Carrickfergus UDA is untouchable and can, quite literally, get away with murder.
Because of this, people with information about Mr Quinn's killing are reluctant to come forward, a fact DCI McCartney readily acknowledges.
He said: "That is something that I am very conscious of. We need the community to help us, but we need to ensure that the community feel safe so that they are confident enough to come forward to assist in these inquiries.
"We understand that they are uncomfortable, that there is fear, but we're trying our best to ensure people are confident in us. My thoughts go to Glenn's mother, Ellen, who has lost a son.
"I'm asking the people of Carrick to come forward and help us, to trust us and be confident we can help them.
"I know there are people in those estates, in the Woodburn estate, in the Sunnylands estate, in Castlemara, who know things about all those murders and they just don't feel confident enough to come forward.
"We understand that they are uncomfortable, that there is fear, but we're trying our best to ensure people are confident in us."
÷ Anyone with information about the murder of Glenn Quinn should contact the PSNI on the 101 number of the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.