Thug Hugh Boyce warned to stay away from slain crime lord's family or go back to jail

Boyce is believed to have been number two to crime boss Malcolm McKeown who was shot dead in a hail of bullets in 2019
Hugh Boyce received a suspended sentence for the attack on Malcolm McKeown jnr

Hugh Boyce received a suspended sentence for the attack on Malcolm McKeown jnr

Steven Moore

A notorious thug once named in court as number two to Malcolm McKeown has been ordered by a judge to avoid the slain crime lord's entire family.

Banbridge thug Hugh Boyce was being sentenced for a vicious attack on his former drug boss's son.

The 31-year-old appeared in person at Craigavon Magistrates Court on Friday to be sentenced for the unprovoked assault on Malcolm McKeown Jr.

Boyce cornered McKeown Jr at a petrol station car park in June and punched and kicked him as he sat in his car.

A previous court was told the attack stemmed from a "long-running argument or feud".

On Friday District Judge Bernie Kelly, who had deferred the sentence for six months to see if Boyce could stay out of trouble, sentenced Boyce to three months behind bars but suspended the sentence for 12 months.

But at the request of the prosecution she also slapped a restraining order on Boyce from not just bothering McKeown Jr but his whole family.

Malcolm McKeown Jr with his dad who was murdered in 2019

Malcolm McKeown Jr with his dad who was murdered in 2019

Should he breach that order which was imposed for two years or commit a further violent offence in the next 12 months Boyce was warned he'd be going straight to jail to serve the three months.

McKeown Jr, who has convictions for drug offences, was battered during the summertime attack but managed to escape Boyce and make a run for it.

His victim, who had been texting on his phone as he sat in the car when Boyce launched his attack, contacted police to report the unprovoked attack and Boyce was lifted an hour later.

Boyce appeared at Craigavon Magistrates Court less than 24 hours after the forecourt fracas and pleading guilty immediately.

Judge Kelly told Boyce to stand as she sentenced him, telling him directly, "you have a particularly poor record" and adding: "This was a wholly unprovoked attack and you were clearly the main assailant."

She said she was mindful of his guilty plea and the fact he appeared to have done what he was told and had "stayed away" from McKeown.

The judge, having dealt with Boyce before, also said there was no point getting a pre-sentence report with a view to a sentence of probation as Boyce "has breached every single order ever put to him and so I'm not wasting probation's time".

We confronted Boyce days after the attack and asked him about the assault on McKeown Jr.

He told us when asked: "Who told you about that? It's nothing to do with you. It happened yeah but it's all been dealt with in court already."

When pushed about the incident and why he had done it and whether he agreed with a police statement that he was a "premier" criminal in Banbridge, he smiled and said, "I'm not talking to you about that."

Malcolm McKeown on day of his murder

Malcolm McKeown on day of his murder

Boyce is believed to have been number two to Craigavon crime boss Malcolm McKeown who was shot dead in a hail of bullets at another petrol station forecourt in nearby Waringstown in 2019.

But it's understood Boyce fell out with the organised crime gang - something which was stated at his court hearing last Friday.

Boyce's defence barrister stated Boyce had some years ago been a co-accused with the victim's father but there had been a fallout and he said Boyce had been the victim of some form of attack.

Boyce was jailed for two years in 2019 for masterminding a string of arson attacks on three cars belonging to police officers.

Police were so fearful of his campaign of terror against them they planted sophisticated bugging devices in a car belonging to a co-accused which Boyce was regularly picked up in.

They captured him discussing plans to torch a Craigavon pub as well as organising drug deals with another man.

A witness who saw the attack on Malcolm McKeown Jr told the Sunday World: "It was mental because it was lunchtime, broad daylight and I saw Boyce, who's enormous, just lay into this guy.

"I thought at first they were just messing about but then the guy being attacked was squealing and desperately trying to get away.

"He was taking a real beating and was lucky to get away. I then realised it was Malcolm McKeown's son taking the hammering."

Police later spoke to Boyce, he told them: "I put my hands up, guilty."

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said: "This is in relation to a long-running argument or feud...Mr Boyce was somewhat a victim in that he had to move away from his partner because of this.

"He was attacked in prison whilst he was on remand... Mr Boyce did run around with a certain crowd but there was then a significant breakdown in relationships."

Malcolm McKeown (54) was found dead in his car behind a garage in Main Street, Waringstown, Co Down.

He had been shot six times in the head and body.

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