06 October 2005

Police blame former UDA comrades for death of 'Doris Day'

Guardian

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Thursday October 6, 2005
The Guardian

Police investigating the assassination of Northern Ireland's most flamboyant loyalist godfather believe he was killed by his former comrades in the Ulster Defence Association. Jim Gray, whose year-round Florida tan and bouffant blond hair inspired his nickname, Doris Day, was shot dead on Tuesday night outside his father's home in east Belfast. Less than three weeks earlier he had been released from prison on bail while awaiting trial on money laundering charges.

Four men and two women were being questioned by police last night after searches in Belfast.

Gray, 47, a former east Belfast UDA brigadier and drug dealer, symbolised the brazen gangsterism of paramilitary commanders. A star on the loyalist golfing circuit who loved to pull out wads of £50 notes from the pocket of his Hawaiian shirts, he was a cocaine user who allegedly played a part in planning the murders of two prominent loyalist rivals. He thought nothing of battering people who got in his way, once beating up a man at an outdoor Rod Stewart concert. Dripping in gold jewellery, the "Brigadier of Bling" had property in Spain, where he would travel on a monthly basis to oversee smuggling rackets. He took Caribbean cruises and holidayed in Thailand - his 19-year-old son, JJ, was found dead from a suspected drugs overdose during one such trip with him.

In March the UDA expelled Gray, deciding his brazen criminality had become a liability and amounted to "treason".

Police continued to gather evidence on the east Belfast council estate where he was shot at point-blank range by two gunmen at his father's home, where he had been ordered to stay while on bail.

The Alliance party had written to the lord chief justice demanding justification for what it said was the "crazy decision" to release Gray on bail when he was clearly under a death threat.

Police said they had given him several warnings of death threats but he was not under 24-hour police protection.

It was unclear yesterday whether the murder was sanctioned by the UDA leadership as an act of internal "housekeeping", or whether it was a personal hit. Many of his old associates feared he was about to turn supergrass. If the killing is found to have been ordered by the UDA leadership it will put the Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Hain, under pressure to review the group's ceasefire.

The killing is not expected to reignite a bloody UDA feud. Gray was isolated and his few remaining cronies have been warned against turning up at his funeral.

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