Four-year-old saw father's shooting

 

A four-year-old child was in the car at the time his father was wounded in a shooting, it emerged today.

The child was sitting in the rear seat of the car last night when two men on a motorbike opened fire on his father (26) in Ravenscroft Avenue off the Newtownards Road, east Belfast.

The shooting came 24 hours after 41-year-old Mr Geoffrey Thomas Gray was killed in Ravenhill Avenue, in the south east of the city, in an attack which police blamed on internal tensions within loyalism.

At the same time, police arrested East Belfast Ulster Defence Association commander Mr Jim Gray and other members of the loyalist organisation in a Chinese restaurant as a pipe bomb was discovered during a raid on the Bunch of Grapes pub in the east of the city.

Mr Gray has been at the centre of a bitter feud between elements in the UDA and Loyalist Volunteer Force over the past month.

The feud flared last month when LVF member Mr Stephen Warnock was gunned down outside a school in Newtownards, County Down.

Days later, Mr Gray was shot in the face on the outskirts of east Belfast.

Last month the UDA expelled prominent loyalist Mr Johnny Adair and his spokesman Mr John White for allegedly siding with LVF elements.

Mr Gray, who was being questioned today in Lisburn police station, is the second UDA commander to have been arrested during the feud.

Over a fortnight ago, the UDA's North Belfast leader, Mr Andre Shoukri, was arrested and charged with possessing a firearm.

The latest developments within loyalism were condemned last night by Ulster Unionist councillor Mr Jim Rodgers who described the gun attack on the 26-year-old as "absolutely appalling" and appealed to the rival factions to pull back from violence.

He issued a warning about the impact of loyalist internecine warfare on businesses in east Belfast, and added: "People are running about like its the Wild West."

PA