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Jail warders were scum, says Belfast UDA boss and Charter NI chief Dee Stitt

By Ciaran Barnes

Published 24/11/2016

1994 Loyalist roof top protest at Crumlin Road prison - Dee Stitt in black balaclava, white t-shirt and grey track bottoms. Johnny Adair pink vest top
1994 Loyalist roof top protest at Crumlin Road prison - Dee Stitt in black balaclava, white t-shirt and grey track bottoms. Johnny Adair pink vest top
Charter NI boss and UDA commander Dee Stitt

Defiant UDA boss Dee Stitt described prison officers as “scumbags” during a tour of the old Maze jail site.

The £35,000 per year Charter NI chief executive also boasted of attacking wardens with snooker balls, and joked about loyalist punishment beatings carried out behind bars.

Armed robber Stitt bragged too how loyalists smuggled in phones, cameras, live animals, booze and food into the Maze Prison.

“Anything they didn’t let us have, we smuggled it in...you name it, we had it,” said Stitt who also told how some men had sex with their partners during open plan jail visits.

Stitt’s confessions to jail violence will lead to fresh questions being asked of the suitability of his lead role in deciding how £1.7million of Assembly approved Social Investment Fund (SIF) cash is spent in east Belfast.

He is refusing to step down from his position at the charity, which has been picked to manage how the cash is spent, despite pressure from politicians and a series of embarrassing gaffes that include:

n Admitting he leads the UDA in Bangor — a unit mired in drug dealing and racketeering;

n Describing his ‘kick the Pope’ North Down Defenders flute band as “homeland security”;

n Accusing the British government of not giving a “f***ing f***” about loyalist communities.

Now shaven-headed Stitt’s candid interviews during a tour of the old Maze Prison — in which he spent five years for UDA robbery and weapons possession — will add to the pressure on him.

Dee Stitt and his cousin Billy Stitt on a tour of the Maze
Dee Stitt and his cousin Billy Stitt on a tour of the Maze

The 45-year-old was accompanied on the jail walkabout by his UDA cousin Billy Stitt, who was recently sacked from his ice-cream shop job for filming himself while performing a sex act on the premises.

During the Maze visit, which was recorded by the Prison Memory Archive, an agitated Dee Stitt said of prison officers: “They just didn’t care. They incited republicans and loyalists against each other for a bit of craic, and to break the monotony on the wings.

“That’s what they done. They were scumbags. Most of the scumbags were ex-British Army, they were ex-paratroopers, ex-police officers.”

Stitt also told of how he and other UDA inmates attacked a prison officer in a watchtower with snooker balls when he refused to retrieve a football they had kicked over a fence.

“We shouted up give us our ball back, and he was an ex-Brit, screw, as usual, ex-soldier, and he shouted back ‘go f**k yourself, you’re not getting your ball back’,” explained Stitt.

“So the OC of the landing sent us in to get the snooker balls. So we all ran in and got the snooker balls out, and he was up there and we threw all the snooker balls at him.

“It was all toughened glass, but we put a couple of windows in for the simple reason he wouldn’t give us our ball back.”

A riot squad had to rescue the warden from the tower, with Stitt adding: “If he had tried to come down the ladder we were smacking him with snooker balls as well.

“They had to put the shields up, to guard him, to get him down. If he had been a nice prison officer, like he should have been, there would have been no harm done.”

Stitt’s interviews with the Prison Memory Archive give a telling insight into the mind of the Bangor UDA commander who now holds a lucrative government-funded job with Charter NI.

He claims to be a changed man, however his confessions about life behind bars and his continued role at the top of a terror gang tell a different tale.

Throughout the filming of his tour of the Maze site Stitt appears agitated and constantly peppers his sentences with the phrase “y’know what I mean”.

Dee Stitt with Arlene Foster at the Charter NI funding announcement
Dee Stitt with Arlene Foster at the Charter NI funding announcement

He was jailed in 1993 for a UDA armed robbery, and held initially on remand at the old Crumlin Road prison in Belfast.

After a loyalist rooftop protest and riot at the Crum in July 1994, which Stitt talks of his pride in taking part in, inmates were transferred to segregated wings at the Maze.

Pointing to a picture taken at the time of the UDA men on the roof, he laughs: “That’s me with the balaclava. They got us down from there, then the government stroked us. They promised us the moon and the stars and they gave us nothing.

Dee Stitt, former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, East Belfast UDA leader Jimmy Birch
Dee Stitt, former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, East Belfast UDA leader Jimmy Birch

“So it was right down to the nitty-gritty, so what else could we do, we had to wreck the jail.”

During his time at the Maze sunbed-loving Stitt worked as a barber on the UDA wing. His cell was next to that of Milltown massacre murderer Michael Stone, who would save the Charter NI chief’s life after his release.

The UDA planned to murder Stitt in 2001 for his role in a failed coup to oust its then east Belfast brigadier Jim Gray.

Charter NI boss and UDA commander Dee Stitt
Charter NI boss and UDA commander Dee Stitt

However, his life was spared when Stone intervened and he was kneecapped instead.

Talking about his time on the UDA wing of the Maze, Stitt said: “People say jail is a university for criminals and I would probably agree with them. I learned a lot more in jail than I would have probably learned outside.”

And referring to the UDA carrying out behind bars punishment beatings, Stitt joked: “When you got put into the big cell sometimes you got a digging, if you were lucky.

“There were other times when things went bad — Special Branch informers were found out, they got beat with iron bars and stuff like that there.”

Stitt also listed the items loyalists smuggled into the Maze including pet birds, mobile phones, booze and roast dinners.

Lamenting the differences between life as a prisoner and as a free man, he added: “Outside, nobody gives a f**k about you, you’re on your own, you look after number one.”

The UDA boss also talked disparagingly of the wives and girlfriends of some loyalist prisoners, saying: “I had a long term girlfriend, and I came in when I was 21. I just got shot of her straight away. I knew it was a single man’s game in here.

“Wives outside, or girlfriends outside, they had their life to live out there too,” claimed Stitt.

“Temptations were coming and going their way. Let’s not kid ourselves, everybody’s got their needs. Some people’s wives were at their work and when they had to find that out during visits, they had to go back up on the wing and deal with that.

“It was a single man’s game in here, defin-tootley.

“That’s the way I went about it, and it made my time in here a lot easier.”

Speaking about sex behind bars he added: “If you seen a man and his wife over there you didn’t look twice at them. They were getting a wee bit of loving going on. A couple of babies conceived here, you never know.”

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