Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

'Baby Bear' caged

Escaped con is captured

AN ON-THE-RUN drug-dealer - nicknamed 'Baby Bear' - was last night back in his cage.

AN ON-THE-RUN drug-dealer - nicknamed 'Baby Bear' - was last night back in his cage.

Stephen Courtney absconded from Magilligan Prison more than a year ago, after being released on temporary home leave.

Courtney - son of notorious drug-trafficker Paul 'Bear' Courtney - had been serving a five-year sentence, handed down in July, 2001, when he went on the run.

But, he has been scooped again - this time by cops in Manchester, where Courtney was making fresh inroads into the drugs trade.

He is now locked up in Garth Prison, Preston, serving a 12-month sentence for perverting the course of justice.

By the time he is released, he will finally have served the rest of his drug-dealing sentence.

As Sunday Life revealed, last year, when Courtney absconded, he fled Ulster and headed straight for the Bolton area, where his father still lives.

While in the Greater Manchester area, he also teamed up with the 'Shankill Exiles' - cohorts of former Shankill UFF chief, Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair, who had been forced to flee the province, in February, 2003.

Several of Adair's gang, including his son Jonathan are now in jail on drugs charges.

Courtney had struck up a friendship with Adair, when they shared a landing in Maghaberry jail's Bann House, before the loyalist's release, in May, 2002.

Adair hoped to use Courtney's drugs contacts to further his own criminal empire.

His links with Adair landed Courtney in trouble with republicans inside Maghaberry, who feared the west Belfast man would pass on information to the loyalist terror group.

And, following a death-threat from republicans, Courtney was switched to Magilligan prison, outside Limavady.

In June, 2000, when Courtney was arrested by cops, who raided a property outside Lisburn, and seized a large quantity of drugs and more than £50,000 in cash, it was the second time he faced a prison sentence for drugs.

Previously, he was jailed for 16 months, after a car he was driving was stopped by drugs squad officers, in Mallusk, in February, 1995.

The then teenager had tried to run off, but was arrested a short distance away, and drugs and cash recovered.

cmcguigan@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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