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Fresh calls for UDA man's licence to be revoked

Published 29/08/2014

Brendan Hughes




SECRETARY of state Theresa Villiers has come under further pressure to revoke prominent loyalist John Howcroft's licence as the family of another man he murdered spoke out.

Concerned relatives of Eddie Campbell joined calls to remove Howcroft's licence after he appeared in court on Saturday charged with attempting to murder two ex-UDA chiefs.

Howcroft (46) was jailed almost 26 years ago for the murders of Mr Campbell and another Catholic man Jim Meighan in separate sectarian attacks.

The north Belfast loyalist was sentenced to life in prison but freed on licence in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Under the law the secretary of state can suspend an individual's licence and return them prison if there are concerns over their conduct.

But Theresa Villiers has not removed the licence despite just months ago revoking the licence of another loyalist convicted alongside Howcroft over the sectarian killings.

Robert 'Rab' Molyneaux (46) from the Ballysillan area was returned to prison in April following concerns he was re-engaged in paramilitary activity.

In July 1987 Howcroft shot dead 40-year-old Catholic taxi driver Eddie Campbell after kidnapping him as part of a UFF gang.

Two months later Jim Meighan, from the New Lodge area, was dropping his girlfriend off outside her Ballysillan home when a gunman approached his car and shot him twice in the head in a blatant sectarian attack.

Mr Meighan's sister Michelle told The Irish News her family was angry over the secretary of state's failure to act.

And now the nephew of Eddie Campbell has revealed he has written to Ms Villiers through his solicitor also calling for Howcroft's licence to be revoked.

"This one is clear cut if John Howcroft has been charged with attempted murder," said 42-year-old Eddie Campbell, who was named after his uncle.

"All we want to see is justice, and it would be unjust if his licence wasn't revoked," the Ardoyne man said.

"What is taking them so long on this one? I hope Theresa Villiers makes the right decision."

His solicitor Michael Brentnall, of Belfast-based firm Robert Murtagh & Co, confirmed that a letter has been sent to Ms Villiers.

"Our client has instructed that we request an explanation from the secretary of state," he said.

"The secretary of state needs to be clear and consistent in respect of these matters - either the licence applies under the legislation or it does not."

Howcroft, of Fornby Park, appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court last Saturday alongside fellow leading loyalist John Bunting (47), of Stonebridge Avenue in Conlig, and Darren George McAllister (31), of Alliance Road.

They were charged with two counts of attempted murder and possessing a firearm with intent to murder Andre Shoukri and John 'Bonzer' Boreland.

Boreland was shot in the thigh in Carr's Glen last Wednesday[AUG20], with close associate and former UDA 'brigadier' Shoukri escaping injury.

It follows months of tensions after a rival faction of loyalists attempted to usurp the mainstream UDA leadership in the area.

No bail applications were made and the district judge remanded all three in custody.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) said: "Decisions on licence suspension are made on their own merits, and are separate to any criminal proceedings against an individual."

* VICTIM: Taxi driver Eddie Campbell who was shot dead in 1987. Mr Campbell's nephew has added to calls for his uncle's killer John Howcroft to have his licence revoked

* PRESSURE: Secretary of state Theresa Villiers, left, has come under renewed pressure from the families of the victims of UDA killer John Howcroft, right, to revoke the prominent loyalist's licence after he was charged with attempted murder and possession of a firearm

➣ Editorial ➣ P16