UDA chiefs 'gave order for fatal attack on DJ'
A savage beating in north Belfast which killed a former Downtown Radio DJ was sanctioned by senior members of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association, police told an inquest yesterday.
Stephen Nelson, 55, was kicked repeatedly and battered with a bin and ashtray as he lay helpless in the foyer of a nightclub in September 2004. He died six months later in a vegetative state in hospital.
A gang of up to 10 heavily-built men set upon the victim after he threw somebody with connections to the paramilitary UDA out of the Chimney Corner Hotel for alleged drugs peddling, the hearing in Belfast was told.
Belfast coroner Brian Sherrard said: "It seems to me that it can only be described as something which is animalistic."
Mr Nelson, a single man from Kings Manor in east Belfast, had worked as a DJ for Downtown Radio.
He organised club nights at the hotel on the Antrim Road and was involved in a dispute five weeks before his death when he evicted a customer from the premises for alleged drugs dealing.
Bar manager Monica Quinn told the inquest the customer issued chilling threats after being evicted.
"He told Stephen he would pay for this with his life and he was a dead man, he also described himself as South East Antrim UDA," she said.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway linked that incident to the later murder.
"The attack was sanctioned by senior UDA members from Rathcoole, Newtownabbey," he said.
Police arrested ten people and forwarded a file for prosecution on two men but the case was not proceeded with.
The inquest was told the men pushed their way into the nightclub after it had closed following a busy Saturday night and was in partial darkness.
They attacked a doorman as he let the last customers out then subjected Mr Nelson to a barbaric attack.
Ms Quinn said one of the men was clearly directing the violence.
"He kicked Stephen in the right hand side of the head and on the crown of the head, he was using the cash desk to lever himself as he kicked Stephen," she recalled.
"He kicked Stephen's head three times, he threw something down at Stephen, he stamped down on his face.
"It was very quiet, I remember the body on the ground, moving as it was kicked."
They formed a semi-circle around their victim, one said "bastard" as he struck his prone victim, the witness added.
Other staff were injured after attempting to intervene, one was hit with a bin and another lost a tooth.
Mr Sherrard told the hearing: "I have been dealing with the criminal and coronial law for 20 years and I have to say that this stands out as one of the most shocking murders that I have ever had to deal with.
"There is nothing admirable or brave about eight or ten setting upon a single man in an unprovoked attack such as this.
"It seems to me that it can only be described as something which is animalistic.
"What you have here is a gang of bullying thugs setting upon one individual.
"These people, although they purport to represent us, these people have nothing to contribute to our society."
He ruled that Mr Nelson died at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in March 2005 from pneumonia after he sustained severe brain injuries during the earlier attack.