Armed gardaí put on high alert as slain heroin dealer Mark Lovell laid to rest

We can reveal that a border gang boss who approved Lovell's murder attended the funeral, according to security sources.

Lovell’s son Ebony Hughes, who recently survived an attempt on his own life, at his father’s funeral yesteday

Whitney Hughes yesterday. She was granted compassionate bail to attend her father’s funeral

Mark Lovell's funeral

Mark Lovell's funeral

Sunday World

Armed gardaí were on high alert yesterday as a slain heroin dealer was laid to rest. Security was tight amid fears that other members of Mark Lovell’s family would become targets.

On Thursday, Lovell’s daughter Whitney Hughes – who was in prison awaiting trial on serious drugs-related charges – was granted three days’ bail on compassionate grounds when she appeared before a High Court judge in Belfast.

Her father, Mark ‘The Chicken’ Lovell, died in a hail of bullets when two gunmen ambushed him last Thursday outside the home of a relative at Ardcarn Park on the Carnagatt estate in Newry.

Whitney Hughes yesterday. She was granted compassionate bail to attend her father’s funeral

The 58-year-old drugs courier was hit repeatedly and died at the scene as shocked neighbours ran to his aid.

And we can reveal that a border gang boss who approved the murder attended the funeral, according to security sources. It was claimed he mingled with Lovell’s friends as they gathered to say goodbye to the father of three at the Church of the Holy Family in Dundalk, Co Louth.

But following an emotional funeral Mass, he kept a discreet distance from other mourners. And as armed gardaí moved in to establish a heavy presence around the church on the Muirhevenamhor estate, he quietly slipped away in his car.

“This was to give the impression he had no part in Mark Lovell’s death,” said a border criminal source.

He added: “But if he hadn’t given the go-ahead, the murder wouldn’t have happened.” Several weeks before his murder, Lovell he had narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at his home in Dundalk, when his dog was shot dead.

Lovell’s son Ebony Hughes, who recently survived an attempt on his own life, at his father’s funeral yesteday

But as the Sunday World revealed last week, Lovell was gunned down by members of a rival drugs gang who believed he was getting too big for his boots.

It is understood he was caught in the crosshairs of his competitors for a second time when they failed in a bid to take out his son Ebony four weeks ago.

Gang leaders controlling drugs dealers in Newry and south Armagh met in a hotel near the border to discuss ways of taking out the Lovell gang.

It is believed guns, ammunition and money were handed over in car park to men tasked with taking out the Lovell gang.

Within hours, a failed murder attempt on Ebony Hughes – Mark Lovell’s second son – took place in Newry city centre.

But the six-feet-plus fitness fanatic managed to sprint to safety through the Abbey school yard before his would-be assassins could make their move.

At the time, police in Newry released a photograph of Hughes, saying it had concerns for his safety. And they asked the public for information on his whereabouts.

Mark Lovell's funeral

His sister Whitney is currently facing 14 charges including 12 relating to drugs possession and intent to supply heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines. She is also facing two further charges connected to criminal cash and counterfeit football tops.

But yesterday, Whitney joined her brothers Rodney and Ebony for their father’s funeral. They met with their mother Eileen Hughes at the family home in a quiet cul-de-sac at Woodbury Gardens off Tom Bellew Avenue.

Two men arrested in Newry last week on suspicion of murder have been released on bail. Police were last night given a further 36 hours to quiz a third man, who is aged 34, over the murder.

On Friday evening, a constant stream of mourners had turned up to pay their respects to the murdered man.

His remains had arrived home from the funeral parlour earlier that day.

Mark Lovell's funeral

At one stage the queue to get into the three-bedroom semi-detached property was so big, mourners had to take shelter under a gazebo supplied by the funeral directors.

Fearing the possibility of an attack on the Hughes home, two armed Garda response units kept a constant watch on the property until the funeral left for nearby church yesterday morning.

At 10.45am, as he helped carry his father’s coffin to a waiting Mercedes hearse outside,

Ebony Hughes spotted a Sunday World photographer taking his picture.

He spoke to some of his cronies before jumping into a red Volkswagon Passat car which he parked next to ours.

Another silver car was then driven behind by one of his associates. It was a clear attempt at block our route.

And it was only when the driver of the hearse containing Mark’s remains sounded the horn – indicating he wanted through – that the thugs opted to move.

Meanwhile Whitney, as she was driven into the car park of the Catholic Church, opened the passenger-side window, raised her middle finger in the air and yelled at our man: “What are you at, you scumbag? Have you nothing better to do?”

As more mourners arrived at the church, the Garda presence was stepped up even further.

And two plain-clothed and armed Garda officers patrolled near the entrance to the property. At 11.50, the church doors opened again and Mark Lovell’s coffin was placed in the rear of the hearse once more.

As the hearse moved off on his final journey, the cars of his family and friends followed.

And minutes later, we watched as the man – suspected of being one of those who gave the go-ahead for his murder – drove off.

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