Detectives believe the killings are being organised through a former Ulster Defence Association official expelled from the organisation for drug trafficking. The man, who has lived in Spain but is now thought to be London-based, has links with East End drug gangs. He pays cash for former colleagues in the UDA to come to Britain to carry out contract killings.
In one incident two men wearing crash helmets walked into the Prince of Wales pub in Caledonian Road, Islington, north London, and shot Brendan Carey, 47, five times with handguns before escaping on a motorcycle. Police believe the killing, in September 1990, was ordered after London criminals argued over the proceeds of drugs deals or an armed robbery.
In a second incident, a man later revealed to be a police informant was gunned down outside his Kent home last year after he parked his car. Two men were later charged.
A key man wanted for questioning about the organising of both killings is a former prominent member of the UDA who is known to have a long history of involvement in loyalist violence.
He came to Britain after being shot during a murder attempt by the UDA, which denounced him as a drug pusher and ordered him to leave Northern Ireland.
A senior Scotland Yard detective said yesterday: 'I don't know whether the UDA command in Belfast knew about and sanctioned the killings, but I am sure that cash has been been paid to some of its members for murders carried out in London.'
British police have investigated previous allegations of the involvement of Ulster terrorists with mainland criminals, including claims that Provisional IRA members were employed to carry out arson attacks on at least three business premises in Manchester and Liverpool in the early 1980s, enabling the owners to defraud insurance companies.
Detectives examining the murder of the businessman Donald Urquhart last week are liaising with officers from the two earlier murder inquiries, but say there is no evidence to link them firmly with his killing. Mr Urquhart, 55, was shot dead after leaving a pub in Marylebone High Street, central London, by a gunman who escaped on a motorcycle.Reuse content