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Gunmen kill former loyalist paramilitary

GUNMEN locked a taxi driver in the boot of his cab in Northern Ireland early yesterday while they went on a mission to kill a man.

The victim, a 36-year-old Protestant with former paramilitary associations, was shot dead in his bed in the fishing village of Portavogie, Co Down. No group has admitted responsibility yet but the killers are thought to be loyalists, possibly engaged in a punishment mission.

The man who died was William Killen, who had a girlfriend and two children. The gunmen first hijacked the taxi before driving to Killen's first-floor flat, where they burst in and shot him several times. He was alone and died almost immediately. After they had made their escape the taxi driver was released unharmed.

Killen's personal history gives a glimpse of a squalid loyalist paramilitary underworld of violence and disorder. He joined the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association in his teens and in 1974, aged 18, was involved in the murder of a Protestant ex-prisoner shot in the head in north Belfast. The man had been given a UDA 'trial' and sentenced to death because he had 'run around with Taigs (Catholics)' while in jail.

In 1982, Killen was charged with murder, but the charges were reduced. He was tried that year and sentenced to six years' imprisonment for his part in the killing. The court was told he had left the UDA in 1976.

More recently he gained a reputation as a nuisance and trouble-maker in Portavogie, a village which has been almost entirely untouched by the troubles. He was well known to the police, who received complaints about wild parties and his misbehaviour.

Five years ago he survived what appeared to be an assassination attempt, running out of the back door as a gunman burst in at the front. Loyalists were believed to be responsible.

Locals said that he was always in trouble and 'always up in court'. On Saturday night police were called to a noisy and drunken party at his home. While the exact reason for the murder has yet to emerge, it is not inconceivable that he may have been killed because of the trouble he caused.

In an incident last year a woman with a similar lifestyle was killed in Belfast after a neighbour apparently called on a paramilitary group.