Crimelord was gunned down himself in feud months later
Murdered crime lord Malcolm McKeown provided the shotgun used in the killing of drug dealer Paul Smyth.
His 31-year-old henchman Jamie McVeigh was jailed for life last Tuesday after pleading guilty at Belfast Crown Court to carrying out the brutal gangland-style murder.
Smyth — who sold drugs in Lisburn for members of a west Belfast crime family —refused to hand over protection cash to McKeown, who raked in around £5,000 per week taxing dealers in the area.
This, and the belief that he had large sums of money and drugs stashed in his home on Coulson Avenue, sealed his fate.
McVeigh forced his way into the property in June 2019, blasting Smyth with the shotgun provided by McKeown and taking £80,000 worth of cocaine and cash.
Two months later McKeown (50) was shot dead in Waringstown by an organised criminal group from north Armagh known as ‘The Firm’ following a dispute over drugs territory.
His killing and the convictions of Jamie McVeigh for murder and close associate James Holmes (34) of two attempted murders, has effectively shut down one of the most violent gangs in Northern Ireland.
A security insider said: “This was a gang of ruthless criminals who put no value on the life of others. All they cared for was money.”
The McKeown mob, which also for a time included convicted arsonist Hugh Boyce (31) and notorious thug James Carlisle (39), were heavily involved in drug dealing, taxing and robbing rival criminals.
Four days after Jamie McVeigh murdered Paul Smyth, he and co-accused James Holmes fired the same shotgun through the window of a house on Mill Street in Lisburn.
The female victim was able to identify the men despite them being masked. McVeigh admitting possessing the weapon in court last week, with Holmes pleading guilty to the same charge and two counts of attempted murder.
Our source said: “This shows just how out of control McVeigh and Holmes were — four days after Smyth’s killing they were using the same shotgun to shoot up a house less than two miles away.”
Paul Smyth died from a fatal shot to the chest fired by McVeigh, who is believed to have been on drugs when he carried out the killing.
A female friend of the deceased, who was considered agoraphobic and rarely left his home, became concerned for his well-being and called to the property on Coulson Avenue. Finding his front door closed but unlocked, she went inside to discover Smyth’s body “slumped on the sofa, covered in blood”.
“Paul Smyth was a known dealer and sold drugs for criminals from west Belfast,” explained our source.
“He refused to pay protection money to Malcolm McKeown who knew he often kept large amounts of cocaine and money in the house. The initial plan was probably just to rob him, but it seems McVeigh lost the head and shot him.”
McVeigh is known to have a hair-trigger temper and during the past two years while on remand in Maghaberry jail has been involved in assaults on prison officers.
Other shotgun attacks he has been linked to include two in the months before the Smyth murder at Hillhall Park in Lisburn and Granville Gardens in Ballymena.
Malcolm McKeown is believed to have encouraged these — a favoured tactic he used through the years in getting younger criminals to carry out his dirty work.
One glaring example of this was in 2011 when he had drug-dealing husband and wife Hugh and Jackie McGeough murdered inside their Craigavon home after a row over a £13,000 loan.
McKeown employed a family friend to carry out the killings, for which he was later charged before the case against him collapsed.
He was also behind an arson spree against serving police officers and bouncers who put a stop to drug dealing at premises in Banbridge. More than 30 homes and cars were targeted by McKeown causing more than £1m worth of damage.
Well-known Lurgan criminal Hugh Boyce was jailed for two years for setting three of the fires, conspiracy to commit arson and drug dealing. He later fell out with McKeown who he blamed on setting him up for arrest.
Paul Smyth’s murder in June 2019 — two months before McKeown was himself gunned down — has been described as his last major criminal act.
“Malcolm McKeown might not have pulled the trigger but he was directly responsible for Smyth’s murder,” added our source.
“He was the one who targeted him and then sent McVeigh to rob him. Handing a shotgun to Jamie McVeigh was madness because the guy is a nutcase and there was a high risk he would kill Smyth.”
While McVeigh revels in his violent reputation he has expressed concern that he could be the target for revenge attacks in Maghaberry prison.
The west Belfast criminals who Smyth sold cocaine for have strong connections in the high-security jail and there are fears they could try and seek vengeance by placing a bounty on McVeigh’s head.
Two others were convicted of charges connected to the Smyth murder at Belfast Crown Court last week.
James Robert Stewart (31) admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, and possessing a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.
Ryan Mark Megarry (38) pleaded guilty to using his vehicle for reconnaissance in Coulson Avenue and identifying Paul Smyth and his home to other parties.
All four will be sentenced on November 12.