Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, the loyalist regarded as one of the most serious threats to the peace in Northern Ireland, was released from prison yesterday and flown to England.
The erratic loyalist was taken from Maghaberry prison near Belfast and flown by military helicopter to Manchester. He is to live with his wife Gina in Bolton, where she, their four children, and associates fled following a feud in Belfast. She is recovering from cancer.
Their teenage son Jonathan was jailed last year for conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Adair's decision not to stay in Belfast is a huge relief to the authorities there, who had feared fresh outbreaks of feuding involving the Ulster Defence Association, which expelled him several years ago. But his move to Bolton is of great concern to Greater Manchester police, who have formally warned him that he will be closely watched and that no misbehaviour will be tolerated.
Adair was returned to jail by Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, in January 2003 at the height of a UDA feud. His former UDA colleagues regard him as an impossibly disruptive individual and have made clear he is on their death list.
In particular, they blame him for ordering the murder of John Gregg, a member of the UDA inner council. The security forces feared that Adair's reappearance in Belfast would have led to further gunfights.
The Adair family are thought unlikely to lead a quiet life in Bolton, given their previously disruptive record. Chief Superintendent Dave Lea of Greater Manchester Police warned that criminal behaviour would not be tolerated, saying that officers had already met Adair yesterday morning. He added: "We welcome anyone to Bolton or Greater Manchester if their intention is to lead a responsible law-abiding life. However, should people engage in anti-social behaviour or choose not to abide by the law we will tackle them using all available legislation.
"My officers will not allow people to break the law, no matter who they are. Residents should rest assured that we will robustly tackle criminal activity taking place anywhere in the Bolton area.
"We are experienced in dealing with varying levels of criminality and as with all police forces, we have intelligence at our disposal to ensure we can effectively protect our communities and bring criminals to justice."