Border town braces for drug war following murder of suspected drug dealer Mark Lovell

Lovell was shot multiple times by a rival faction as he was about to get into his car in the Ardcarn estate on Thursday evening

Police at the scene of the fatal shooting© PA

Murder victim Mark Lovell

Richard SullivanSunday World

The town of Newry, Co Down is bracing itself for a drug gang turf war.

Tensions in the border city have been on the rise in recent months culminating in the murder this week of suspected drug dealer Mark Lovell.

He was shot multiple times by a rival drug faction as he was about to get into his car in the Ardcarn estate on Thursday evening.

His murder came weeks after he escaped with minor gunshot wounds when his home in Dundalk came under fire. His dog was killed in the incident at the end of October and he suffered injuries to his stomach.

Murder victim Mark Lovell

Sources in Newry say the 58-year-old ignored repeated warnings to stay out of the city and paid the ultimate price.

Police have confirmed that one line of inquiry centres on a cross-border feud between rival drug gangs.

Like many involved in the drug trade on the border, Lovell divided his time between Newry and Dundalk.

A number of competing organised crime gangs are vying for control of the highly lucrative border drugs trade.

The city has long been a hub for gangs on both sides of the border.

“A huge amount of drugs consumed in the North will pass through Newry, it’s a drugs corridor,” a criminal source told us. “And a lot of it doesn’t get past Newry, it makes for a very competitive marketplace.”

He said a number of southern-based outfits were in competition with local gangs, including those led by veteran the ‘Coke King’ and ‘The Chocolate’.

Dissident gangs are also in the market as are a number of foreign organised crime gangs, including a mob headed by two brothers from the Middle East.

“There is a feud going on and the fear is this will open the flood gates.”

The source said the shooting was most likely carried out by a Dundalk-based gang. He said the ruthless nature of the shooting was the hallmark of the southern outfit.

Lovell has long-standing links with veteran drug dealer Barney Morgan, and is thought to have been involved in the drug trade for some time.

This week PSNI District Commander Norman Haslett described the Lovell shooting as a “brutal and senseless” attack on a defenceless man.

“We believe those responsible went to great lengths to plan this attack, that they lay in wait for their victim to come home and essentially ambushed him and executed him,” he added.

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