Exposure sealed fate of notorious activists

Johnny Adair is not the first loyalist from Belfast's Shankill Road to attract so much attention that they became the targets of enemies seeking to kill them or put them behind bars.

Johnny Adair is not the first loyalist from Belfast's Shankill Road to attract so much attention that they became the targets of enemies seeking to kill them or put them behind bars.

The Shankill has thrown up a series of activists who became particularly notorious for their paramilitary activity. Some survived but for others the exposure turned out to be lethal.

Among the best-known of these was Lenny Murphy, who was leader of the UVF Shankill Butchers gang. They were responsible for a large number of murders that make up what are probably Belfast's most notorious sequence of killings.

The deaths, which stretched over many years, included both sectarian killings and loyalist feuds. They involved shootings, bombings and, in particular, killings carried out with knives and beatings. Lenny Murphy is believed to have been directly involved in at least 18 of them.

The savagery of some attacks earned a place in public memory as being among the most horrific of the Troubles. Sentencing 11 of the gang, a judge said their actions "will remain forever a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry".

While Murphy did not take part in all the killings, he was seen as the gang's leader and driving force even when he was in prison. An RUC detective said of him: "He was a ruthless, dedicated terrorist with a sadistic streak, regarded by those who knew him well as a psychopath. He inflicted terror on those around him."

The IRA eventually killed Murphy, whose mother famously said of him: "My Lenny would not have hurt a fly."

Another well-known Butchers gang member, Robert "Basher" Bates, was given 10 life sentences for murders. In prison he became a reformed character while serving more than 15 years behind bars. Released in 1996, he was shot dead near the Shankill by the son of one of his Protestant victims.

One well-remembered Shankill figure was Jim Craig of the UFF, who was eventually killed by his own outfit. It was said that his notoriety and range of enemies meant he could have been killed by almost any paramilitary group, loyalist or republican.

As well as his role in killings, Craig was known as Belfast's foremost paramilitary extortionist, running rackets and collecting protection money from many businesses. He was also reputedly actively involved in colluding with republican groups - including the IRA and INLA - to have other loyalists killed. This sealed his fate.

The most recent Shankill paramilitary legend to be killed was Frankie Curry, who was shot by other loyalists last year. One of the most active loyalist assassins of the Troubles, he claimed to have killed 16 or more people. The killings began in 1972 and continued until shortly before his death.

But not all Shankill paramilitary careers end in infamy and death. Gusty Spence, jailed in 1966 for a pre-Troubles killing, was an icon of militancy. But he mellowed during his long jail term and in recent years has been influential in leading loyalist groups away from violence.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

English Teacher Urgently Required - Secure Unit - Nottingham

£100 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Are you a fully qualified ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on