Belfast UDA's Dee Coleman gets the sack
Shankill UDA forced into reshuffle after elite police unit bust gangster in crackdown on criminality
The veteran loyalist who swore Johnny Adair into the UDA is being lined up to replace jailed Dee Coleman as the second-in-command of the terror gang's notorious Shankill C Company unit.
Sammy 'Flare Gun' Hinton has told pals he is the man to step into the shoes of the 32-year-old, who was remanded in custody after appearing at Belfast Magistrates Court last Thursday.
Coleman - who is accused of UDA membership and heading up an organised crime gang that is involved in drug dealing, loan-sharking and paramilitary beatings - had already been facing the axe by terror gang bosses who believed his embarrassing antics were wrecking their hopes of securing government funding.
Hinton was prominent in the public gallery of the court to see his UDA pal sent to Maghaberry Prison. But according to loyalist insiders this outward show of support was just an act as he wants to replace Coleman as second-in-command of C Company.
The unit's leader, convicted killer Mo Courtney, is understood to be approving of Hinton's promotion.
But the impending appointment is being ridiculed by UDA members who view the veteran loyalist as a figure of fun. Hinton's only military experience is firing a flare gun during trouble on the Shankill - an offence which landed him both jail time and a disparaging nickname.
A UDA member from the early 1980s, he swore a young Johnny Adair into the terror gang in 1984 and laughably tried to teach him to 'drill' at a farm near Limavady.
"Sammy couldn't run a bath, never mind C Company," said a Shankill UDA source.
Coleman's arrest was the first major blow by an elite police unit as it goes all out to hammer the renegade terror gangs refusing to move away from drug dealing and racketeering.
The PSNI's new Paramilitary Crime Taskforce nabbed Coleman and more arrests are set to follow with cops turning their attention to out-of-control UDA factions in north Antrim and north Belfast, headed up by loyalists Kyle Vauls and Sam 'Bib' Blair.
Hulking body-builder Vauls' UDA grouping in Coleraine and Ballymoney recently murdered drug dealer Brian McIlhagga and have been behind a spate of shootings, including one that resulted in footballer Stephen Clyde almost losing a leg.
It has resisted all government enticements to embrace politics and end paramilitarism.
So too has convicted blackmailer and compulsive gambler Blair's north Belfast UDA gang.
Immersed in criminality, its members have flooded Tigers Bay and the White City area with drugs, to the point that they are being blamed on a spate of suicides among helpless addicts.
With neither the north Antrim or north Belfast UDA groupings willing to scale back on drug dealing and racketeering, both are now firmly in the sights of the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce.
Launching the elite PSNI unit last month, National Crime Agency director general Lynne Owens (left) said: "We will use every law enforcement tool and power, and intelligence-sharing opportunity available, to disrupt paramilitary-related criminal activity which has such a significant impact on many communities and individuals."
It was intelligence gathered by the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce that landed UDA thug Coleman in the dock of Belfast Magistrates Court last Thursday charged with membership.
Giving evidence, a detective described the 32-year-old as "overall second-in-command of west Belfast 2nd Battalion, C Company UDA".
He also accused C Company of being involved in drug-dealing, loan-sharking and paramilitary beatings. The cop's statement makes a mockery of claims by the west Belfast UDA, through the Loyalist Communities Council, that it has abandoned "all violence and criminality".
The officer added: "As well as that role (second-in-command) he (Coleman) is the operational or military commander for the UDA in that area of the Shankill."
This scathing assessment backs up what Sunday Life has been reporting for years, that Coleman is the UDA's number two in the notorious C company crime gang.
The loyalist's court hearing was also told that a lengthy five-month investigation by the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce has identified 27 C Company members who are actively involved in crime.
Three of these individuals have been reported to the Public Prosecution Service while another two are on the run from police.
As part of the probe 14 raids were carried out at various locations across Belfast, Portadown and Holywood in north Down.
The west Belfast UDA is the biggest paramilitary group in north Down - dwarfing Dee Stitt's Bangor UDA which is part of Jimmy 'Millions' Birch's east Belfast UDA brigade.
The searches unearthed UDA uniforms, cannabis, steroids, mobile phones, tablets, a gun holster and ammunition.
One of the raids at Coleman's home in the Lower Shankill also led to the discovery of a cash-counting machine.
During interviews with detectives, he denied UDA membership, saying: "I don't belong to nothing."
Coleman's fall from grace has been predicted for a long time, with other UDA leaders on the Shankill desperate to get rid of him because of the embarrassing publicity he regularly brings.
The terror gang's west Belfast leader Matt Kincaid is known to be keen to link-in with the DUP to secure public cash for community projects - a tactic successfully employed by other UDA brigades in south and east Belfast led by Jackie McDonald and Birch.
But Coleman's constant scrapes with the PSNI are wrecking these funding hopes.
Now that he is behind bars, the west Belfast UDA can claim to be turning its back on criminality and apply for government grants.
Sources on the Shankill revealed that it was C Company commander Mo Courtney who was tasked by Kincaid to get rid of Coleman. A second UDA insider said: "Matt has been complaining to other UDA leaders about Dee.
"His behaviour was tolerated for a long time because of the thousands of pounds he made the UDA from selling drugs, but even that wasn't enough to save him. Matt realises that the open criminality has to stop if the UDA is to get funding for community projects, and that's why Dee had to go."
Adding to Coleman's woes is yet another appearance at Belfast Magistrates Court this week where he will contest a cocaine possession charge.
He has been a regular in the dock over the past 18 months with numerous convictions for assaulting police, disorderly behaviour, possessing an imitation firearm, trading in counterfeit products, handling stolen goods and possessing illegal prescription drugs.
Despite this he has not served a day in prison for any of these offences, escaping with a suspended sentence on each occasion.
However Coleman, who recently split with his wife Stacey after less than a year of marriage, has served previous jail sentences for blackmail and being part of a UDA gang that opened fire on UVF supporters during the 2000 feud.