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Fuel and feud Banbridge thug Hugh Boyce in dust up with son of murdered drugs baron Malcolm McKeown

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

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Hugh Boyce

Hugh Boyce

Hugh Boyce

A criminal once named in court as number two to Malcolm McKeown launched a vicious assault on the slain drug lord’s son, we can reveal.

Banbridge thug Hugh Boyce cornered Malcolm McKeown Jr at a petrol station car park ten days ago and punched and kicked him as he sat in his car.

And a court was told the attack stemmed from a “long running argument or feud”.

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

McKeown contacted police to report the unprovoked attack and 31-year-old Boyce was lifted an hour later.

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Boyce has words with our reporter

Boyce has words with our reporter

Boyce has words with our reporter

Boyce appeared at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court less than 24 hours after the forecourt fracas and he pleaded guilty and had his sentence deferred until December to see if he can stay out of trouble.

This week we confronted Boyce and asked him about the attack 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 said in court that he was now Banbridge’s “premier criminal”, he smiled and said, “I’m not talking to you about that.”

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.

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

Around 30 cars and homes were targeted during a relentless campaign on officers and witnesses involved in investigating Boyce and McKeown’s criminal network, causing over £1m worth of damage.

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

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Malcolm McKeown with his son Malcolm Jr

Malcolm McKeown with his son Malcolm Jr

Malcolm McKeown with his son Malcolm Jr

They captured him discussing plans to torch a Carigavon pub as well as organising drug deals with another man James Kidd, who was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Boyce pleaded guilty to common assault on Malcolm McKeown Jr at Craigavon Magistrates’ on Friday, via videolink from police custody.

Prosecution outlined that on June 17, 12.30pm, McKeown was in his vehicle inside the car park of Supervalu on Flush Place in Lurgan.

He was approached by Boyce who had gotten out of a BMW X5 and then proceeded to open McKeown’s car door and immediately punched him in the face.

Upon exiting the car, McKeown was kneed and punched once more by Boyce.

A witness who saw what happened 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.”

The court was told when McKeown questioned Boyce on the assault, he was told that it was “because of what happened in court years ago”.

When police later spoke to Boyce, he told them: “I put my hands up, guilty”.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson stated: “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 break down in relationships.”

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McKeown Jr

McKeown Jr

McKeown Jr

District Judge Bernie Kelly commented that had appeared to have “carried on to another generation” with the injured party being the son of one of the aforementioned.

Mr Thompson stated: “Such was the upheaval, he says that he felt that if he saw a member of this family if he didn’t challenge them then he would be showing fear.”

District Judge Bernie Kelly commented that she had not dealt with or heard of the injured party in the recent past and did not wish for the “fractures to permeate through another generation”.

She deferred sentencing in the case until December 17, instructing Boyce to not cross paths with the injured party or any of his family.

The Sunday World understands Boyce fell out with McKeown Snr’s crime gang when McKeown sent foot soldiers to court when Boyce was appearing in relation to the attacks on the police cars.

It’s understood Malcolm McKeown had been involved in those attacks as well and had sent men to the court as a “warning” to Boyce.

A criminal source told the Sunday World: “Hugh Boyce is not someone you want to cross because he just doesn’t care. He thought Malcolm (senior) had been intimidating him and he was treated badly even though he never touted. He kept his mouth shut.

“Every time Boyce was in court Malcolm (senior) sent a squad to watch the proceedings just to make sure he knew the score.”

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

A number of people have been charged in connection with the murder.

Boyce was just nine days into a two-year jail sentence when his former crime boss was gunned down.

Boyce and 43-year-old James Kidd appeared at Belfast Crown Court in August 2019, where they admitted offences dating back to 2016.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiring to burn down a pub in Craigavon, while Boyce admitted he was involved in setting fire to the cars of three serving police officers in Co Down and Co Armagh.

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McKeown Jr was attacked at the car park in Lurgan

McKeown Jr was attacked at the car park in Lurgan

McKeown Jr was attacked at the car park in Lurgan

The pair also admitted being concerned in the offer to supply the class A drug cocaine and being concerned in the supply of class B cannabis, between June 11 and July 14, 2016.

The court was told how in the early hours of April 10, 2016 a Toyota Corolla belonging to a policewoman and a Ford Fiesta van belonging to her husband were destroyed in an arson attack.

At around 11pm on April 27, 2016 an Audi A4 belonging to a police officer was set on fire, with the flames spreading to a neighbour’s car.

And on April 30 another officer’s car was damaged by fire and he and his family had to be evacuated from their home.

As a result of the three separate arson attacks, listening devices were installed in Kidd’s car and various conversations were recorded in June and July 2016.

Conversations about drugs included discussions about “cocaine”, “bars of dope” and “ounces of cannabis”.

Boyce and Kidd were also recorded talking about a plan to burn down a pub in Craigavon during which they talked about balaclavas, gloves, climbing over walls and petrol bombs.

Boyce was released from prison last November but was back before the court in May where he pleaded guilty to making a threat to kill and criminal damage.

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