Loyalist leader Mark Haddock ordered the murder of a paramilitary rival and told the gunmen: "I want him done, shot dead", a court has heard.
The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) chief singled out Ulster Defence Association (UDA) boss Tommy English as the target and conducted a scouting operation at his house ahead of the shooting in north Belfast almost 11 years ago, the city's Crown court was told.
The evidence implicating the 42-year-old former police informant was provided by two brothers who have already confessed to involvement in the October 2000 murder.
Gordon Kerr, for the Crown, outlined the accounts of David and Robert Stewart, UVF members from Newtownabbey, as he opened the prosecution case against Haddock and 13 co-accused.
The 14 face a litany of paramilitary charges, including the murder of English, in one of the largest trials in Northern Ireland in decades.
Mr Kerr told judge Mr Justice John Gillen that the brothers claim Haddock and other senior UVF members in north Belfast planned the killing in retaliation for the shooting of a colleague at the height of a bloody feud between the UDA and UVF.
He said the trial will hear evidence from Robert Stewart that Haddock and a number of his co-accused had gathered in a flat close to where English lived on the morning of the murder to discuss the plot.
"The name Tommy English was mentioned early on by Haddock and the fact English lived near by," Mr Kerr said, referring to Robert Stewart's claims.
English, 40, was gunned down in his house in front of his wife and three young children just after 6pm on Halloween night.
Robert Stewart, Mr Kerr told the court, said Haddock left the flat telling the four men who had volunteered to go to his house to avoid shooting the children.
"Haddock left the flat about 4pm," said Mr Kerr.
"As he left he told them to try to miss the kids and wished them good luck."
The lawyer said, according to Stewart, in the hours before the attack one of the gunmen claimed: "He said he wanted it to be all over so he could go home and have a kebab."
Mr Kerr outlined a similar account of events from David Stewart.
The lawyer said Stewart claims Haddock made clear that he wanted English dead.
He said Haddock allegedly declared: "I want him done, shot dead."
During the first morning of the non-jury trial, Mr Kerr also relayed English's wife Doreen's account of the shooting.
She said a gang of masked men had forced their way in the back door of their home, assaulted her and then pushed through into the house to shoot her husband.
"At one point she heard one of the men shouting 'come on back and finish the b******," said the lawyer.
Haddock sat apart from 13 co-accused as the trial commenced.
Eight prison officers surrounded him as he was led from the cells into court 12 and seated away from the dock containing the other defendants.
Haddock, dressed in a blue shirt and sporting a goatee beard, gave the thumbs-up sign as he sat smiling ahead of the start of proceedings.
He is in protective custody over fears for his safety. Two of Haddock's co-accused sitting yards away in the dock were previously accused of trying to kill him in a failed assassination bid five years ago.
All 14 spoke to confirm their names as the trial began in front of Justice Gillen with the public gallery packed full.
All the defendants deny the charges facing them.