UDA-linked estate agent found dead

Belfast estate agent Philip Johnston in 2005
Belfast estate agent Philip Johnston in 2005

A well-known former Belfast estate agent has been found dead at his home.

The body of Philip Johnston (51) was discovered at his Bangor home in the Bryansburn Road area on Wednesday afternoon.

Philip Johnston was found dead at his Bangor home on Bryansburn Road

Philip Johnston was found dead at his Bangor home on Bryansburn Road

Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

Back in 2005, Mr Johnston was arrested on suspicion of money laundering alongside former UDA chief and police informer, Jim Gray.

Gray was murdered just months later, outside his parents’ home in Clarawood, east Belfast.

The charges against Mr Johnston were later dropped.

Prior to his arrest in 2005, Mr Johnston had legally held a gun.

This right was revoked during the investigation.

A hearing at which he appealed the refusal of his gun licence in 2013 was told that Mr Johnston’s dealings with Gray were limited to property transactions, and that Gray had forced himself upon him.

However, a lawyer for the Secretary of State claimed that their relationship went beyond mere business.

He said the two men had a social relationship involving dinners and lunches, and that Mr Johnston’s alleged association with two other UDA men meant that his claim that he was dealing with Gray only because he was forced to was incorrect.

Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Treacy said that refusing a firearms certificate “to someone who, by his own admission, associated with a number of members of a proscribed organisation” was not an irrational measure “under any circumstances”.

He dismissed Mr Johnston’s appeal.

In a statement yesterday, the PSNI said: “Police attended the scene of the sudden death of a man aged in his 50s at a house in the Bryansburn Road area of Bangor on Wednesday July 19.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious at this time.”

It is expected a post-mortem will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death.