Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory claims loyalist gun was used to kill ‘Shankill Butcher’ Lenny Murphy

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And the UDA leader who supplied the machine gun was later executed for his treason.

‘Skelly’ told us he carried out his own investigation into how the IRA managed to catch the hard-nosed killer Murphy in the heart of loyalist West Belfast.

And McCrory told us he’s finally uncovered the truth – including how former UDA leader Jimmy Craig ‘betrayed’ his own terror group.

It is believed that Murphy – the most feared and psychopathic loyalist killer of all time – caught sight of his IRA killer in a split second as he was about to pull the trigger.

As the UVF man attempted to get out of his car in the Glencairn district, the Republican killer gang struck.

Murphy was hit a total of 22 times by bullets fired from a Sterling submachine gun and died instantly.

The 30-year-old serial killer was responsible for the deaths of countless Catholics and Protestants.

And in the four months before his death, Murphy personally murdered three Protestants and one Catholic.

News of Murphy’s death sent shockwaves down Protestant Shankill Road, while Catholics in North and West Belfast – the community that had borne the brunt of the man’s murderous brutality the UVF – quietly rejoiced.

The murder also fascinated McCrory, then 17 years old.

He wondered how the IRA could smuggle high-powered weapons into the staunchly loyalist Glencairn estate, shoot a Protestant and disappear without a trace.

McCrory never forgot the murder of Lenny Murphy. And when the years passed and he rose through the ranks of the UDA, he swore to himself to know more.

“I knew something was wrong. This had bothered me for years and I needed answers. How did the IRA manage to pull this off in the middle of Glencairn? he told me in an interview just before he died.

McCrory was determined to find out the truth. And he set up his own investigation which included the interrogation of UDA quartermasters whose job it was to stockpile weapons.

“In the end, it was simple. Jimmy Craig – a leading member of the UDA – provided the gun that killed Lenny Murphy,” McCrory said.

He added: “I finally dug up the whole stinky story.”

Originally from Ballysillan, Craig – a former sailor and promising boxer – had joined the UDA on the Shankill.

He had previously served time in prison for carpet theft and was open to all sorts of crimes, including extortion from builders.

Craig considered himself a “tough man”. He rose through the ranks of the UDA and ruled those below him through fear. He was a well-known figure at Dunmore Greyhound Stadium near the Catholic New Lodge area.

His love of the high life, however, was also his weakness. And he knew that made him vulnerable to an IRA attack.

But it turned out that before Murphy was murdered, Craig had created his own insurance policy. Using contacts made at the Belfast yards, Craig made the IRA an offer she could not refuse.

He offered the Republicans Lenny Murphy’s head on a plate, on the condition that he be allowed to operate unmolested.

A hand-picked IRA unit was concealed in a house in the Catholic village of Ligoniel, a short distance from where Lenny Murphy’s girlfriend lived at the top of the Glencairn estate. Murphy was known to visit her once a day, although the times varied.

Craig even arranged to provide a Sterling submachine gun for use by the IRA strike team.

As there are only two roads to Glencairn, Murphy often favored the less used one, which took him past a now demolished factory.

Craig knew this, and on the night in question, he arranged for a security guard to phone him when Murphy’s distinctive yellow Rover car rolled through the factory gate.

Murphy led in a perfectly planned assassination.

As he pulled up, a pickup truck with specially drilled peepholes in its side panels turned so its rear doors faced Murphy.

An IRA gunman jumped up and started shooting. Murphy was torn to pieces. Seven bullets hit him in the head. Others went through his heart, right lung and other organs.

The IRA unit withdrew as they arrived and they dumped their van before arriving at their Ligoniel hideout, where they are believed to have stayed overnight.

Jim Craig’s insurance policy had paid off – but only for now. Six years later he was shot dead by the UDA while playing pool in an east Belfast pub.

At the time of Craig’s murder, many UDA leaders were vacationing in Spain.

Sam McCrory said: “It was a dirty business. People like Jimmy Craig only cared about himself.

“The day after Lenny Murphy was shot, Craig went back to the quartermaster and threatened not to tell anyone about the machine gun removal.”

He added: “In reality there was not a loyalist bone in his body.”

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