The 30-year-old serial killer had been responsible for the deaths of countless Catholics and Protestants alike
And the leading UDA man who supplied the machine-gun was later executed for his treachery.
‘Skelly’ told us he carried out his own investigation into how the IRA managed to catch up with the cut-throat killer Murphy in the heart of loyalist west Belfast.
And McCrory told us he finally unearthed the truth – including how one-time UDA leader Jimmy Craig had “betrayed” his own terror group.
It is believed Murphy – the most feared and psychopathic loyalist killer of all time – caught a split-second glimpse of his IRA assassin as he was about to pull the trigger.
As the UVF man tried to step from his car in the Glencairn district the republican killer gang struck.
Murphy was hit a total of 22 times by bullets fired from a Sterling sub-machine-gun and he died instantly.
The 30-year-old serial killer had been responsible for the deaths of countless Catholics and Protestants alike.
And in the four months before he was killed, Murphy personally murdered three Protestants and a Catholic.
News of Murphy’s death sent shockwaves down the Protestant Shankill Road, while Catholics in north and west Belfast – the community which had borne the brunt of the UVF man’s murderous brutality – quietly rejoiced.
The killing also held a fascination for the then 17-year-old McCrory.
He wondered how the IRA could bring high-powered guns into the staunchly loyalist Glencairn estate, shoot a Protestant dead and disappear without trace.
McCrory never forgot the murder of Lenny Murphy. And when the years passed and he rose up the ranks of the UDA, he vowed to find out more.
“I knew something wasn’t right. It had bothered me for years and I needed answers. How did the IRA manage to pull this off in the middle of Glencairn?” he told me in an interview just before he died.
McCrory was determined to find out the truth. And he set up his own investigation which included questioning UDA quarter-masters whose job it was to store weapons.
“In the end, it was simple. Jimmy Craig – a leading member of the UDA – supplied the weapon which killed Lenny Murphy,” said McCrory.
He added: “I eventually unearthed the entire stinking story.”
Originally from Ballysillan, Craig – a former seaman and promising boxer – had joined the UDA on the Shankill.
He had previously served a jail sentence for stealing carpets and was open to all sorts of crime, including the extortion of builders.
Craig saw himself as a ‘hardman’. He shot up the UDA ranks and ruled those below him by fear. He was a well-known figure at Dunmore Greyhound Stadium near the Catholic New Lodge area.
His love of the high-life, though, was also his weakness. And he knew it made him vulnerable to an IRA attack.
But it emerged that prior to the Murphy murder, Craig had created his own insurance policy. Using contacts made on the building sites of Belfast, Craig made the IRA an offer it couldn’t refuse.
He offered republicans Lenny Murphy’s head on a plate, provided he was allowed to operate unmolested.
A hand-picked IRA unit was secreted into a house in the Catholic village of Ligoniel, a short distance from where Lenny Murphy’s girlfriend lived at the top of the Glencairn estate. It was known Murphy visited her once a day although the times varied.
Craig even arranged to supply a Sterling sub-machine-gun for use by the IRA hit squad.
As there are only two routes into Glencairn, Murphy often favoured the least used, which took him past a now demolished factory.
Craig knew this and on the night in question, he arranged for a security guard to telephone him when Murphy’s distinctive yellow Rover car passed the factory gate.
Murphy drove into a perfectly planned assassination.
As he pulled up, a van with specially drilled spy-holes on its side panels turned so its rear doors faced Murphy.
An IRA gunman jumped out and began firing. Murphy was ripped to pieces. Seven bullets hit his head. Others went through his heart, right lung and other organs.
The IRA unit retreated the way they arrived and they dumped their van before arriving at their Ligoniel safe house, where it is believed they remained overnight.
Jim Craig’s insurance policy had paid out – but only for the time being. Six years later he was shot dead by the UDA as he played pool in a pub in east Belfast.
At the time of the Craig killing, many UDA leaders were enjoying a holiday in Spain.
Said Sam McCrory: “It was a dirty business. People like Jimmy Craig cared only for himself.
“The day after Lenny Murphy was shot dead, Craig went back to the quarter-master and threatened him not to tell anyone about the removal of the machine-gun.”
He added: “In reality, there wasn’t a loyalist bone in his body.”