FIANCEE FINDS SHOUKRI DEAD ON THE SOFA; Body tested for drugs Fears of bloody turf war Police probe death of leading loyalist.
EX-UDA brigadier Ihab Shoukri was found slumped dead on a sofa yesterday by his pregnant fiancee.
Emma Ritchie called the emergency services after she went into the living room of the home they shared in Grainon Way, Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of North Belfast.
She had gone to bed on Saturday night as 34-year-old Shoukri stayed up to watch Ricky Hatton and Paulie Malignaggi's Las Vegas boxing bout which started at 3.30am.
Pathologists will today test his body for traces of substances such as cocaine and heroin to find out if his sudden death was caused by a drug overdose.
Prison sources said the former terror boss got hooked on drugs during a recent stint behind bars.
However, a friend of his fiancee told how he had vowed to go straight and turn his back on his criminal past.
A close friend said: "Emma said he was turning over a new leaf and keeping his head down.
"He wasn't bothering with all the UDA stuff any more, he just wanted to have a clean start and have a quiet family life with her. She said he just wanted to live out his days in peace and was excited about becoming a dad.
"It's sad for her, she's going to have to bring up her baby on her own now."
It is the second tragedy to hit the mum of one as she lost her previous partner Ally Evans to a heart attack about 18 months ago.
Ally, uncle to Northern Ireland International football star Johnny Evans, and Emma had split up for a number of years, friends claimed.
Shoukri's death has led to fears of a bloody turf war as others make a bid for his mantle. He and his brother Andre caused a massive split within the UDA which led to them being expelled from the loyalist terror group two years ago.
They had dared to set up a breakaway faction in south east Antrim.
That faction had been accused of being involved in widespread criminality including drug dealing.
And now it is feared the vacuum caused by Shoukri's death could lead to more violence in Belfast as others try to muscle in on his former empire.
Ihab was jailed for 15 months in June after he admitted being a member of the UDA and a supporter of the terrorist organisation. He was released just weeks later because of the long period of time he had already spent in prison while on remand awaiting his trial.
He had been arrested along with a number of other men at the Alexander Bar in North Belfast where a UDA "show of strength" was being planned.
His younger brother Andre is currently in jail where he is serving a nine-year term, imposed in November last year, for a series of serious criminal charges including blackmail and intimidation.
It is expected he will be freed for Ihab's funeral. The brothers - sons of an Egyptian father and Belfast mother - had rapidly climbed through the ranks of the North Belfast UDA before their very bitter and public expulsion from the organisation which has been linked to widespread racketeering, drug dealing and brutal sectarian attacks.
Last night Baroness May Blood, who has spent decades working in loyalist communities, claimed Shoukri left a legacy of shattered lives behind him.
She said those who live by the sword die by the sword.
Baroness Blood told the BBC: "For many years Ihab had been involved in terrifying criminality and whilst it is sad to hear that a young man has lost his life, my first thoughts are that those who live by the sword also die by it.
"This man put drugs into the community for years and years and destroyed so many lives.
"I hope his death does not lead to some sort of turf war and more violence on our streets.
"I hope this young man is given a funeral where that will be the end of matters but somehow I doubt that will happen.
"The UDA is a very discredited group and while some within it have moved towards decommissioning they are not moving quickly enough and the loss of Ihab to the Shankill will be in terms of a loss to his criminal interests only."
The PSNI said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Ihad's death.
BARONESS MAY BLOOD
While it's sad to hear a man has lost his life, my first thoughts are those who live by the sword also die by it
FIGHT Ricky Hatton and Paulie Malignaggi in Vegas; SHOCK DISCOVERY Ihab Shoukri was found dead in his Newtownabbey home yesterday; GRIM Ihab with UDA chief Jackie McDonald and loyalist Jim Grey, who was shot dead in 2005; TOP DOG Loyalist Andre Shoukri