Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair: late son lived in his father’s shadow
Death of ‘Mad Pup’ in Troon, Scotland, ends life of ‘tearaway’ who was in and out of prison
Convicted loyalist paramilitary leader Johnny Adair leaves Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim after serving a two-year term of a 16-year sentence following his 1995 conviction for directing terrorism. Adair was convicted after undercover police tape-recorded him boasting about his murderous exploits. He received early parole under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. File photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Getty Images
Johnny Adair arrives at his then home near Bolton in northern England, January 10th, 2005. The loyalist leader was released from jail in Northern Ireland just beforehand. File photograph: Ian Hodgson/Reuters
Troon has a reputation as a respectable, if rather sleepy, coastal town where solid red sandstone tenements look out across the Irish Sea. This year’s Open championship was played on the local golf course, Royal Troon.
For more than a decade the south Ayrshire town has been synonymous with one of the most familiar handles of the Northern Ireland troubles – “Mad Dog”.
Johnny Adair and his acolytes settled here in Scotland in 2005, after being run out of Belfast by their onetime Ulster Defence Association comrades.
The west of Scotland, with its sectarian tendencies and close links to Northern Ireland, has obvious attractions for a loyalist exile – but holds dangers, too.
On Saturday, Adair’s eldest son, Jonathan, was found dead in a house in Troon. Police are treating the cause of death as unexplained but Adair jnr was a known drug user who was previously jailed for supplying heroin and crack cocaine.
The 32-year-old father of two had been in and out of prison for most of his adult life. He was released from Kilmarnock prison a few days before his death and was due to face fresh drugs charges in the New Year.
Throughout his short life, Jonathan Adair lived in the shadow of his father. Dubbed “Mad Pup” as a child, Jonathan was reared in the lower Shankill Road. For long stretches of his young life, his father was in prison: whenever he came back, the Adair home was almost a permanent target, both for republicans and rival loyalists.
Adair jnr was a teenage tearaway. He was caught stealing cars and joyriding and robbed from the home of an 84-year-old woman. After a female shop assistant was assaulted in a filling station on Crumlin Road, “Mad Dog” came under pressure to bring his son to heel.
Late one August night in 2002, Jonathan, then 17, was shot in both calves with a 9mm pistol by gunmen from the UDA’s notorious “C” company. Adair Snr ordered the shooting.
Despite this, the young Adair idolised his father. He mimicked the gaudy jewellery and tattoos, and when Adair snr was put on a UDA death list for his alleged role in the murder of fellow loyalist John Gregg, in 2003, his son fled to Bolton with his mother, Gina Crossan, and a cadre of supporters.
Adair snr joined “the Bolton Wanderers” after being airlifted by helicopter out of Maghaberry in early 2005 to prevent reprisals.
Gina and Johnny, who met as teenagers, were apparently wed in a prison portakabin in the Maze in 1997. The bride and groom danced to Tina Turner’s Simply the Best while UDA men toasted them with smuggled vodka.
The couple ended their relationship shortly after Johnny arrived in Bolton. Adair snr headed north to Troon, along with a hardcore group of loyalists that included his former Maze cellmate Sam “Skelly” McCrory.
When Jonathan was released from a five-year sentence for drug dealing, he joined his father in Scotland.
In Troon, the Adairs settled into a lifestyle that one local described as “like Jeremy Kyle with guns”.
Jonathan fed off his father’s reputation. The Adairs tended to stay in Ayrshire, where loyalism has a following. Occasional trips into Glasgow were mainly spent drinking in Bridgeton, an east-end neighbourhood where union flags still fly outside bars.
Adair snr, now 52, has spoken publicly of his “happy new life” in Scotland. He has a girlfriend, Lynne Benson, and a young family. But in 2013, he was charged with “behaving in a threatening or abusive manner” towards Ms Benson.
Despite his high profile, Adair snr lives in relative anonymity in Scotland.
One of the few exceptions was in 2015 when three men with connections to dissident republicanism were found guilty of plotting to murder him and McCrory.
Adair snr’s enemies are not the only ones to fall foul of the law. Last year his nephew Mark Adair was sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening a female shop worker with a gun during an armed raid.
Jonathan leaves behind a lengthy rap sheet that includes a charge of assaulting his then Scottish girlfriend in 2009.
A year before his death, Adair jnr was imprisoned after a drug-fuelled attack on the Troon flat of a woman who appeared in The Scheme, a Scottish reality TV show set on a sink estate on the outskirts of Glasgow.
His death, in its own way, shows the reality of the “new” Scottish life of one of the most notorious sectarian killers of the Troubles.