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Gray's gay lover held for questioning about murder

(Irish News)

A lookalike gay lover of murdered loyalist Jim Gray is among those being questioned about the former UDA leader's killing, it has emerged.

William James Murphy (42) is among the four men arrested after the 47-year-old was gunned down on Tuesday night.

It is widely believed that Murphy had a homosexual relationship with Gray, his one-time paramilitary boss in east Belfast.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development that could cause further loyalist upheaval, The Irish News today reports that the UVF-aligned Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is to hold a crisis meeting on its future.

There has already been some 'closed room' discussions among loyalist paramilitary groups in north Antrim as arguments continue about taking a political path.

The PUP's future, as well as its links to the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, will be debated at a closed annual conference next week.

It is believed that PUP leader David Ervine put off a planned meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern due to take place yesterday (Thursday) until after the party conference on October 15. Earlier this year Mr Ervine said the PUP was powerless to intervene with the UVF/LVF feud.

The British government has announced that it is withholding the PUP's assembly allowances for another year and no longer recognises the UVF ceasefire.

This decision followed an Independent Monitoring Commission report which said the UVF and Red Hand Commando remained active, violent and involved in organised crime.

Meanwhile, in the Jim Gray murder it is believed that his former business partner Gary Matthews, his cousin Steven Matthews, and the UDA's current east Belfast 'brigadier' are among six people being questioned about the killing.

Gray's former associate William Murphy is also believed to be among the four men and two women arrested by police. Murphy had regularly been photographed at Gray's side in recent years.

The similarities in the men's appearance fuelled a belief that they were lovers.

Rather than adopting the traditional 'macho' image of loyalists both men had similar bleached-blond hair, wore earrings and favoured pastel coloured knitwear.

In the early 1990s Murphy was sentenced to four years for possession of information likely to be useful to terrorists. In December 2004 police found cocaine and cannabis in a car in which Murphy and Gray were travelling. Murphy later received a suspended sentence for possession.

Last year Gray and Gary Matthews unsuccessfully tried to sue Axa Insurance for damages valued at £60,000 after a fire at the Bunch of Grapes bar in east Belfast in January 2001, which they jointly owned.

Last night four men, including Murphy, remained in police custody.

Two women were released without charge.

October 8, 2005

This article appeared first in the October 7, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News