The UDA feud took a dramatic turn last night after Johnny Adair's most trusted lieutenant switched sides to the mainstream UDA.
Senior UDA sources last night confirmed that William 'Mo' Courtney had fled his Glencairn home with his family after he learned that he was about to be killed by Johnny Adair's 'C company'.
Courtney (40) had been the west Belfast UDA's representative on the loyalist paramilitary group's ruling 'inner council' until Johnny Adair's expulsion in September.
It is understood that Adair's associates had planned to kill Courtney last night after he was allegedly spotted talking to a senior figure from the mainstream UDA on Tuesday.
Ironically Courtney was spotted talking to the UDA leader at the same time as he was shown on television alongside Johnny Adair.
In July last year Mo Courtney accompanied Adair and other UDA leaders when they met the former secretary of state, John Reid, in east Belfast.
Last March Courtney was arrested by the Stevens team and questioned in connection with the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane.
He was later released without charge.
In 1995 Mo Courtney, Johnny Adair and Michael Stone held talks with then-lord mayor of Belfast Eric Smyth in the Maze prison about the future release of prisoners.
He had been sentenced to seven years in 1991 for robbery, theft and hijacking.
Courtney is the second of Johnny Adair's closest allies to have changed sides to the mainstream UDA since the start of the loyalist feud last September.
In November former UDA 'brigadier' Winston 'Winkie' Dodds quit the lower Shankill claiming that he had been intimidated by Adair's C company.
Dodds and his family moved to the north of the city under the protection of the mainstream UDA. Since then cars and houses belonging to the Dodds family have been attacked by elements associated with C company.
Mainstream UDA sources last night hinted that Adair's C company may be further isolated in coming days with suggestions that senior figures from west Belfast's two other UDA areas were in negotiations to align themselves with Adair's mainstream opponents.
If that was to happen C company would be left isolated and effectively confined to the lower Shankill estate.
To date the UDA feud has claimed the lives of two men.
In December, Jonathan Stewart was shot dead in the Manor Street area by elements linked to Adair's C company.
In January, south Belfast loyalist Roy Green was shot dead by mainstream UDA men outside the Kimberly Bar, for allegedly passing on information to Johnny Adair.
Adair's associate and spokesman John White could not be contacted for comment last night.