Belfast Telegraph

UVF terror trial: elderly mum disowns supergrass sons

By Ciaran Barnes

UVF supergrasses David and Robert Stewart have been disowned by their terrified parents.

Speaking from her bungalow in the staunchly loyalist New Mossley estate in Newtownabbey, mum Catherine Stewart said she had refused to visit them in prison and has no contact with them.

The frail pensioner also revealed she is frightened of being targeted in revenge attacks. The UVF has assured the family there is no threat to them because of the actions of their sons.

“We (she and husband David) just don't give them the time of day,” she told Sunday Life.

Catherine’s youngest son Robert, 37, a self-confessed alcoholic and drug user, has spent the past week giving evidence in Belfast Crown Court against 14 loyalists who he says were responsible for UVF murders, attempted murders and kidnappings.

The men, including ex-Special Branch agent and Mount Vernon UVF chief Mark Haddock, are all former friends of the Stewarts. Defiant Robert, who has no regrets over his decision to turn supergrass, urged the defendants to copy him and his brother saying ‘you should try it’.

His older brother David, a 40-year-old trained social worker, is scheduled to give evidence against the 14 loyalists later this week.

After turning supergrass in 2008 the Stewarts were held in a segregated unit at Maghaberry Prison for their own protection. The seasoned UVF members knew the decision meant they would never see their families again and would have to start new lives outside Northern Ireland with new identities.

But their mother refused to visit them, spurning the chance to talk to her sons who were freed from jail last month. They are already aware their parents have disowned them.

“That's true — now you've heard it straight from the horse's mouth,” said Catherine when asked about why she had not been to the jail.

After giving themselves up to police the Stewart brothers confessed to more than 70 UVF crimes including hijacking the taxi used in the Halloween

2000 murder of UDA boss Tommy English.

Because they agreed to turn state's evidence their 22-year sentences were reduced to three years. They are being given round the clock protection by armed police until the trial ends in 13 weeks time.

Police have previously said they were concerned for the safety of the elderly Stewart parents. At a bail hearing in March 2010, a detective told the court that a UVF suspect named by the brothers lived nearby and was able to watch David Stewart Snr “walk his dog fives times a day”.

Catherine Stewart says that since the trial started she has been under “terrible pressure”.

She insisted that she should not be blamed for the actions of her sons.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with me,” said Catherine.

“Unfortunately I'm in the estate and there are boys here under pressure and they could take it out on me.”

Catherine claims that the UVF is aware that she has disowned her sons and wants nothing more to do with them.

“They know,” she said, before closing her door.

The pensioner refused to talk about how David and Robert had reportedly stole £2,000 from her in the days before they decided to turn supergrass.

“Do you not think that's a personal matter?,” said Catherine. Giving evidence last Wednesday, Robert Stewart, who is known as ‘Lanky’, said he and his brother had stolen their parents' life savings and used the cash to go to Scotland.

At the time the pair were taking up to 60mg of Valium a day.

Because of this Stewart claimed he could not remember if they admitted to their mum and dad that they took the money or if it was his parents who contacted him.

“It was a shock to them. Yes it's terrible, I would agree it's terrible. I wish I didn't do it,” said Robert Stewart.

After spending a few days in Scotland the brothers headed to Stansted in England before returning to Northern Ireland, to Portrush. While staying on the north coast they read a newspaper article about the Historical Enquires Team and decided to co-operate with police.

They later signed an ‘assisting offenders' contract in which they were guaranteed a three-year jail sentence in return for giving evidence against 14 loyalists named in their statements.

During his testimony last week Robert Stewart laid bare the murkiest secrets of the UVF.

He talked about how the terror gang planned the Tommy English murder, how Mark Haddock allegedly told the gunmen to “try to miss the kids”, and that suspected shooter Ronnie Bowe was keen to get the killing over with because he wanted “a kebab”.

Robert Stewart also revealed intimate details of horrific UVF ‘punishment' attacks and accused his former pals of being drug dealers. This accusation was made after he admitted being an alcoholic and junkie who binged on booze, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription pills.

Stewart denied claims from defence lawyers that he was paid to give evidence.

He further admitted to lying when first questioned by police, but blamed this on his drug problems and said that his memory has improved through time as he has conquered his addiction.

Source Sunday Life

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