A man shot dead in Northern Ireland late on Thursday night may have been the victim of a revenge attack which represents the first fatal shooting by loyalists since their ceasefire of last October.
William Elliott, 31, was found shot in the head in the seaside town of Bangor, Co Down. He was known to be a senior loyalist paramilitary figure who is reported to have had some involvement in the drugs trade.
His history suggests that he may have been killed by other loyalists because of his reported part in the killing of a Protestant woman last year. If so, this would be the first premeditated murder carried out by a loyalist group since the ceasefire.
But there was a marked reluctance yesterday, among the authorities and in political circles, to pursue this line of inquiry. The widespread feeling was that if loyalists had carried out the murder it was probably a one-off act of vengeance.
Mr Elliott was said to be the leader of a section of a small but ferocious loyalist paramilitary group, the Red Hand Commandos, which has associations with the larger Ulster Volunteer Force.
In April 1994 Margaret Wright was brutally beaten and shot in an illegal drinking den in the Village area of south Belfast, where Elliott was then resident. Her body was found several hundred yards away where it had been heaved over a yard wall.
A number of people have been charged in connection with the murder and are due to go on trial in November. But although both loyalist and security sources said they regarded Elliott as the prime mover in the attack, he was not charged.
Last night a man was being questioned by police in connection with Elliott's shooting.