Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Jemma McGrath survived a UVF bid to kill her, but has no intention of returning to her east Belfast home

Jemma McGrath (24) shot in punishment attack in east Belfast
Jemma McGrath (24) shot in punishment attack in east Belfast
Jemma McGrath (24) shot in punishment attack in east Belfast.
Jemma McGrath (24) shot in punishment attack in east Belfast.
Care worker Jemma McGrath (24) was victim of gun attack
Care worker Jemma McGrath (24) was victim of gun attack

A woman who spent months in hospital fighting for her life after a gun attack by the UVF has been discharged from hospital.

Jemma McGrath (24), was shot five times suffering wounds in the lower abdomen, left arm and both legs in Lord Street Mews, off the Beersbridge Road in September.

The care worker has now told friends she has no intention of returning to her native east Belfast where the shooting happened.

Ms McGrath is reported to be a former partner of east Belfast UVF leader Stephen Matthews and was reported to have been attacked as the result of a smear campaign against her.

Since the attack last year the PSNI has set up a crime unit to tighten the net on UVF crime in east Belfast. But police have described the area as a "hard nut to crack".

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said they were tackling the "full gambit of criminality".

"We in the Organised Crime Branch are liaising closely with the local district officers in combating all aspects of criminality that the UVF is involved in. That covers a wide range of offending," he said, in comments which have been published online by the Policing Board.

"From the lower end, such as the intimidation of people in relation to gaming machines and fruit machines and placing those in places of entertainment or in fast food outlets. It also covers serious criminality around extortion, blackmail and also in respect in the dealing of drugs."

He added: "We have also been investigating some of the serious historic crimes in east Belfast that the UVF has been involved in."

Among them is understood to be the murder of Joseph Reynolds (40), a Catholic workman gunned down by the UVF when his van was ambushed on the Sydenham Road on October 12, 1993.

The file was re-opened last October and to date four UVF suspects have been questioned – but none have been charged.

Since the operation began the PSNI has seized weapons and small quantities of drugs as well as starting investigations into money laundering and money lending.

According to Sunday newspaper reports police believe there are those who are at the top of the UVF "who want to go away" but hardline elements are refusing to stand down.

ACC Harris said: "Overall we think the leadership of the UVF at a certain level is committed to trying to take the UVF off the stage. The difficulty is that the membership is not with them."

The senior PSNI officer also said he was aware of the UVF recruiting.

He said: "It is difficult to put a number on that, but certainly the UVF do seem to be recruiting. And they are doing so in east Belfast."

STORY SO FAR

Careworker Jemma McGrath (24), was shot five times by the UVF.

She has now been released from hospital and has no intention of returning to her native east Belfast.

Since her shooting the PSNI has launched an operation to crack down on UVF crime.

Earlier this month there was anger after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said unionists agree with him that the Orange Order, UVF and PUP in Belfast are acting as "one and the same thing".

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