'My boy died on holiday in Bulgaria after fleeing UVF gang,' says heartbroken mum
Published 30/06/2014 | 11:19
The mother of a man drowned while on holiday in Bulgaria has said he fled there to escape the UVF – four years after the group shot dead his uncle.
James Kelly from Belfast's Shankill Road died in an accident at the Sunny Beach resort where he had been staying with his partner.
His family has flown to Bulgaria to bring the 25-year-old's body home.
Mr Kelly was the nephew of Bobby Moffett, who was shot on the Shankill Road in 2010.
He too is said to have been living under death threat and was previously beaten with bats in a UVF attack.
James' mother Lily said her son had been under threat from loyalist paramilitaries.
"I'm absolutely devastated, James was my world," she told Sunday Life.
James Kelly who died on holiday in Bulgaria
"He was tortured by the UVF for years because he was like his uncle Bobby, a really brave boy who stood up for himself.
"I can't believe James is gone.
"At the minute I'm taking comfort from the fact that the UVF didn't get him, if they had he would have been torn apart. James is at peace now. He was my beautiful son who meant the world to me. I don't know how I am going to cope."
According to reports, the couple had hired a pedalo boat when tragedy struck last Wednesday.
Mr Kelly is believed to have jumped into the waves coming into shore and somehow ended up under the water and drowned.
One line of inquiry will be to see if he suffered an epileptic fit.
Other tourists are said to have dived into the water in a bid to help him.
Mr Kelly's body was later recovered by a specialist lifeguard boat.
Mr Kelly's body is expected to be brought back to Belfast later this week.
Victims campaigner Raymond McCord said Mr Kelly had gone to Bulgaria to escape the UVF.
"James was a good kid at heart, and like so many other young men on the Shankill he was picked on by paramilitaries because he was brave enough to stand up to them," he added.
DUP councillor Brian Kingston said it was a "terrible tragedy".
Bobby Moffett (44) was gunned down by two masked UVF men in broad daylight on the busy Shankill Road on May 28, 2010. His murder was witnessed by a large group of passers-by. The killing was described by police as a public execution by the UVF. It followed an incident in which Moffett had challenged a paramilitary leader to a fist fight.
The Independent Monitoring Commission found that the UVF leadership decided Moffett should be shot to eliminate the threat he posed to individual members of the organisation and to send a wider message to the loyalist community that the UVF would not tolerate its authority being flouted. Moffett had been a leading member of the UVF and the Red Hand Commando.