CALLOUS | 

Revealed: How crime boss Maxi McAlorum got away with brutal witness murder

When the Sunday World pressed him on Leo Scullion’s murder last year, McAlorum said: “I will talk to you, but just not at the minute”

Maxi McAlorum in his heyday

Maxi in recent times

Leo Scullion’s grave in Carnmoney cemetery

Kevin ‘Maxi’ McAlorum’s funeral cortege makes its way through north Belfast on Friday

Hugh JordanSunday World

A crime boss whose body was carried in a horse-drawn hearse through the streets of Belfast this week literally got away with murder.

Only a small group of mourners joined Kevin ‘Maxi’ McAlorum’s funeral cortege on Friday and his old gangster pals stayed well away.

But after the death of the 66-year-old, the Sunday World can lift the lid on his role in one of the cruellest killings of the Troubles.

Security man Leo Scullion (55) was bound and gagged before a gunman shot him twice in the head.

The killer gang which included Maxi McAlorum used a pillowcase to muffle the sound of the gunfire.

A father of two, Mr Scullion worked as a night watchman at Ligoniel Working Men’s Club on the outskirts of north Belfast.

We have learned he was executed because Maxi and his mates feared he may be about to finger them as the armed robbers who stole the club takings just weeks before.

Until today, the details surrounding Mr Scullion’s death have remained a closely guarded secret, known only to a handful of criminals and former RUC detectives.

Maxi in recent times

By the mid-’80s ‘Maxi’ was associating with armed robbers responsible for several big bank heists.

And shortly before Christmas 1985, a hand-picked gang headed by McAlorum visited the Ligoniel Working Men’s Club on the pretext of having a drink.

To comply with club rules, they all signed the visitors’ book before entering. But in truth, they were casing the joint.

And a few days later they returned with handguns. They stole a substantial amount of cash before making off.

But almost immediately rumours began circulating that Leo Scullion, who lived with his family at nearby Linen Grove, had recognised the robbers as they were leaving.

And it was also believed Mr Scullion had made a statement to the police, which would be used in court if the police pressed charges.

But Maxi and a Protestant paramilitary figure linked to the UVF – who had supplied the robbery team with weapons – plotted to kill Mr Scullion.

In the early hours of Tuesday January 14, 1986, McAlorum accompanied by two others entered the club through a ventilation shaft on the roof which was in the process of being repaired.

Once inside, they seized the night watchman and tied him to a chair. The intruders then used a belt to hold a paper gag over his mouth.

Mr Scullion must have realised his fate was sealed when a pillow was placed around his shoulders and ears. Unable to scream out, the terrified man was shot twice in the head and left lying on the floor.

But before leaving, the killers removed a book containing the names and addresses of members and guests. A small amount of cash in the till was left untouched.

Interestingly, the police – who discovered Mr Scullion’s body at 9am – described the murder as ‘armed robbery without political motive’.

Leo Scullion’s grave in Carnmoney cemetery

Because of Mr Scullion’s religion, many observers assumed the killing was another ruthless sectarian murder by the UVF. But they were wrong.

At an inquest 18 months later, police told the Coroner they were working on the theory that Mr Scullion’s killers at been responsible for the robbery weeks before the murder.

One of the robbers headed to the United States almost immediately and he remained there until the dust settled in Belfast.

The Colt .45 gun used to kill Mr Scullion was used again in a botched UVF punishment attack in Coleraine which resulted in the death of 18-year-old Nigel Watton.

He was shot dead by a drunk man later convicted of his manslaughter, who told the police he was trying to frighten the teenager when the gun went off.

The use of a UVF weapon added to speculation that Mr Scullion was the victim of a sectarian attack.

But detectives in Belfast knew better. Mr Scullion’s death wasn’t recorded in the annual security statistics or in the official list of Troubles dead.

The truth is Mr Scullion died as a result of a sordid plot hatched between Maxi McAlorum and the senior UVF man. The UVF man fled to England shortly after.

A detective who worked on the case told us: “Maxi McAlorum was a popular man. He was loved by his friends and family, but he would’ve cut your throat to save his skin.

“The investigation was nearing completion when Mr Scullion was murdered and the guest book was stolen.”

The PSNI informed the Sunday World that although 11 people were arrested in connection with Mr Scullion’s murder, no one was charged. The case remains unsolved.

Last year, the Sunday World met with Maxi McAlorum on an unrelated matter. And when pressed him on the Leo Scullion murder, he said: “I will talk to you, but just not at the minute.”

In a trouble-torn life – which saw him lose no fewer than four of his children – Kevin McAlorum revelled in being known one of Belfast’s best-known gangsters.

He was extremely well-connected in crime circles and first appeared on the front page of this newspaper 25 years ago.

He was snapped – with his then drug dealing partner Liam ‘Fat Boy’ Mooney – at Dublin Airport.

The pair had just returned from Amsterdam, where they had been buying ecstasy tablets. McAlorum died last week after he finally succumbed to an increasingly debilitating COPD lung condition.

And following a short service outside his north Belfast home on Friday morning, his remains were taken to Roselawn Cemetery in east Belfast for cremation.

Known for his distinctive flowing locks, Zapata moustache and black leather waistcoat, in his day McAlorum resembled a Mexican desperado and he enjoyed his nickname ‘Maxi’.

From Hardinge Street in the New Lodge area, he earned a reputation as a ruthless armed robber and a dealer of top-quality dope.

Kevin ‘Maxi’ McAlorum’s funeral cortege makes its way through north Belfast on Friday

In October 1975, 21-year-old Maxi, with an address at Eia Street, appeared in court charged with breaking into a house on the nearby Cliftonville Road. It was occupied by three elderly sisters and he had broken in twice before.

When confronted by the eldest of the women, McAlorum put a sharpened chisel to her face. He then grabbed her and threw her onto a bed in another room, where he robbed her of £30 cash.

McAlorum stole £45 and a number of gold sovereigns from another sister.

By the time of his appearance in court in October 1975, McAlorum was already serving an 18-month sentence for firing shots at soldiers manning an observation post on the Ormeau Road. The court also heard he had carried out the attack on behalf of the INLA.

A policeman told the court he didn’t view him as a man of violence. The RUC man said he considered him more of a petty thief.

From that time, McAlorum stepped up his criminal activities, becoming for a time one of the city’s top gangsters, importing drugs and masterminding bank heists.

hjordan.media@btinternet.com


Today's Headlines

More Northern Ireland

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices