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Loyalists in feud fight

(Steve Myall, The People)

Simmering tensions between loyalist godfathers in north Belfast boiled over last weekend leaving them literally at each other's throats! For The People can reveal that top loyalists UDA commander Jim Spence and LVF boss Jackie Mahood were involved in a street brawl in broad daylight.

Residents of an upmarket leafy Lyndhurst area were left peeping behind their curtains after the calm of Sunday was shattered when a row between the pair - who both live there - spilled into the street. Eyewitnesses say there were angry scenes which ended in a fist fight between the two top paramilitary bosses.

One said: "People had to come out to break up the fight. Spence was getting the better of Mahood when the brawl was finally broken up.

"There was a lot of shouting and the insults were flying."

Loyalist sources have claimed that the UDA's inner council is not prepared to back Woodvale commander Spence - which will mark the latest blow for the troubled terror boss.

Spence, an alleged suspect in the murder of lawyer Pat Finucane, has been fighting a battle in recent months to halt a tide of speculation that he is a high level informer.

He has blamed other loyalists - including Mahood, a former UVF man who formed an alliance with Johnny Adair after leaving the organisation, of being behind recent attempts to blacken his name. And it's believed that tensions boiled over on Sunday when Spence learned Johnny Adair was accusing him of being the 'Stakeknife of the UDA'.

Spence is desperate to halt the rumours in loyalist circles about his lifestyle and suggestions that he is a high-level informer - on a par with Freddie Scappaticci's alleged role in the IRA. But Adair, who fell out with Spence during the internal UDA feud last year, claimed a former commander of the UDA in the Woodvale area of west Belfast was a top agent.

While Adair did not name Spence publicly, Spence himself said it was clear to people in the know who Adair was getting at. He challenged Adair to produce the alleged documentation or 'shut up' - and warned he'd open a can of worms on information he had about Adair.

Spence, who served time in the Maze on the UDA wing, was very close to Adair for many years before the organisation split.

Sources said Spence has been under increasing pressure since he was named in a BBC Panorama documentary last summer which alleged he played a leading role in the Pat Finucane murder.

Spence, who runs the UDA in Woodvale in north Belfast, was said to be behind the failed coup which saw deposed 'Bacardi' Brigadier Jim Simpson flee Ulster last month - although he denies any involvement.

November 27, 2003

This article appeared first in The People on November 23, 2003.