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FALL FROM GRACE James McVeigh went from doting dad to drugged-up shotgun killer in space of months

His Facebook account reveals the struggles of a serial criminal trying to go straight for the sake of his baby – but failing spectacularly

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Killer James McVeigh with his newborn son

Killer James McVeigh with his newborn son

Killer James McVeigh with his newborn son

James McVeigh went from doting new dad to drugged-up killer in the space of a few months, we can reveal. 

The 32-year-old – jailed for life this week for the cold-blooded murder of Paul Smyth – had just become a father for the first time to a boy in February 2019.

But we can reveal serial offender McVeigh had once shared a jail cell with notorious drug lord Malcolm McKeown, and jail sources have revealed the pair became “very close”, with McVeigh idolising McKeown who it’s understood ordered Paul Smyth to be robbed of his drugs and cash.

McKeown, who had a fearsome reputation for taxing and bullying small-time drug dealers, is believed to have also supplied the gun used in the attack.

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James McVeigh feeding his baby son

James McVeigh feeding his baby son

James McVeigh feeding his baby son

In the three months before McVeigh blasted Smyth to death with a shotgun, he appeared to be trying to make an effort to turn his life around.

His Facebook account reveals the struggles of a serial criminal trying to go straight for the sake of his baby – but failing spectacularly.

McVeigh relentlessly posted pictures of himself as a proud father with his new baby son and made statements about making a new start.

In April 2019, McVeigh was still posting photos of his partner and videos of him as a hands-on dad feeding his son and claiming to be “loving life”.

In one post in February, McVeigh posted: “Thanks people life couldn’t be better time to restart the next 30 years the rite way cus I made a rite mess of the first 30.”

In another post, he said: “Time to walk a new path being a dad is the most incredible thing in the world and if that’s not enough to change someone I don’t no what is my own family is wat I live for it’s wat I’ve always dreamed of.”

And talking about his new son, he posted: “u have shown me wat it really means to love and care for someone and wat family really means u are perfect son and I can’t wait to see u grow and teach u all the little things u don’t yet know and knowing how good ur we life will be because I’ve never known a better mother than the one u have and I will be there every step of ur life I love u son so proud rite now.”

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But McVeigh won’t be anywhere near his son for at least 18 years because a few weeks later he went on a drug-fuelled rampage which saw him not only murder Lisburn man Paul Smyth but four days later he was involved in a shooting at the home of a Lisburn couple with the same shotgun used to kill the 50-year-old.

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Murder victim Paul Smyth (Family photo)

Murder victim Paul Smyth (Family photo)

Murder victim Paul Smyth (Family photo)

Four days after killing Mr Smyth, remorseless killer McVeigh took to social media to post pictures of himself waving wads of cash along with his two accomplices – cash believed to have been stolen from his murder victim who he’d blasted in the chest at close range.

The gang, which included 35-year-old James Holmes, of Lawnmount Crescent in Lisburn, and 32-year-old James Stewart, seemed to be revelling in their notoriety as they posed to pictures of them drinking bottles of Buckfast, whiskey, wine and beer.

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James McVeigh

James McVeigh

James McVeigh

Just hours after waving the cash around, McVeigh, Holmes and Stewart were involved in the second shooting which left a Lisburn family in such terror they had to sell their house.

McVeigh was told on Monday he will spend at least the next 18 years in jail for the murder of vulnerable Mr Smyth (50).

Hours after the murder, McVeigh was caught on CCTV paying for sportswear with cash he stole from Mr Smyth during the shooting.

Deranged drug addict McVeigh had gone to rob him of cash and drugs and we can reveal he and both James Holmes and James Stewart had been sent to ‘tax’ Smyth by McKeown.


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James McVeigh, aged 32, was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years’ imprisonment

James McVeigh, aged 32, was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years’ imprisonment

James McVeigh, aged 32, was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years’ imprisonment

Now jail sources say it’s ironic that one of McVeigh’s last posts showed him waving hundreds of pounds in the air – because he’s completely skint now.

“It’s funny because McVeigh hasn’t got a pot to p**s in behind bars,” said the source. “And the irony is he was sent to rob Paul Smyth by Malcolm McKeown and now McKeown is dead he can’t help him out behind bars.

“McVeigh is so skint he had to give up smoking in prison, he’s got nothing.”

On Monday, McVeigh appeared at Belfast Crown Court from Maghaberry Prison with his lower arms in bandages and was said to be acting strangely, slapping his head and twitching.

It’s understood he has been self-harming but he is also at risk from other inmates who have been keen to take revenge for his murder of Mr Smyth. “McVeigh is a complete fantasist,” said a source. “He does everybody’s head in with his bragging in jail about how he beat people up and even killed two people when he lived in Scotland in fist fights but only got 18 months in jail.

“He makes out he’s some kind of Pablo Escobar but he hasn’t two shillings to rub together.

“He was working for Malcolm McKeown. He got very close with McKeown when they shared a cell for a few months four years ago.

“That’s McVeigh all over. A complete drug-head.

“He’d sniff anything up his nose through a dirty sock if you told him to.”

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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