Shoukri suffered 'epileptic fit'

SPECULATION is mounting as to whether UDA leader Ihab Shoukri actually died from a drugs overdose.

Questions were being asked in the hours before his friends received the post mortem details of his death.

Police have confirmed they were investigating the circumstances of the sudden death of a 34-year-old man in Newtownabbey.

It is understood there were no early signs of a suspicious death.

Shoukri was jailed for 15 months in June for his part in a UDA show of strength in a bar, but was released earlier this year.

He admitted being a member of the UDA and supporting the loyalist paramilitary organisation.

Shoukri was arrested along with five other men at the Alexandra Bar in York Street in March 2006.

The UDA leadership announced after it had expelled Ihab Shoukri and his younger brother Andre from the organisation.

The sons of an Egyptian father who married a local woman, both brothers rose through the ranks of the UDA in north Belfast.

In November 2007, Andre Shoukri was jailed for nine years for trying to extort thousands of pounds from a pub owner.

Today friends of the former paramilitary godfather - who had been ousted from the organisation and was living in Rathcoole with his girlfriend under the protection of the south-east Antrim faction of the UDA - said they believed he had taken an "epileptic fit and not a drugs overdose".

A loyalist said: "Ihab had been in the house and had had a few beers. He watched boxing on television and then fell asleep on the sofa. They found him dead the next morning.

"I have been told from a few people who were with him that night that he did not have any drugs but people and newspapers can claim what they want now he is dead.

"His mother Katie is devastated. She is a very Christian person. It is a human loss to her and the family. People are dismissing how it affects the family.

"His death will not start a feud because Ihab had no rank and has been lying low this past while since he was released from jail.

"Andre is due out in 18 months time. He would have waited for that if he was going to bother and I really don't think he was."

A death insertion in a daily newspaper says Ihab Shoukri "died suddenly at home".

The insertion is from his "darling partner Emma", his mother Katherine, brothers Yehia and Andre. He is also remembered by his stepchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

The insertion also advises that funeral arrangements will be released later.