sundaylife

| 6.2°C Belfast

Police concern over expansion of West Belfast UDA

Terror gang's reach worries cops

Close

Mount Bar in Tigers Bay

Mount Bar in Tigers Bay

Dee Stitt

Dee Stitt

Mount Bar in Tigers Bay

Cops are becoming increasingly concerned over the expansion of the West Belfast UDA's crime network.

The Shankill-based terror gang was responsible for a recent spate of beatings in Bangor, where it also took over a legitimate business to launder drugs cash.

Loyalists have identified the thug who ordered the attacks as a taxi driver known as 'the Bully from Kilcooley' who has an obsession with Peaky Blinders.

He is now running the West Belfast UDA's Bangor unit, having replaced the convicted extortionist David 'Doughnut' Walsh.

The cabbie, who until being promoted within the UDA was considered a wimpish figure, has been trying to exert his authority by ordering punishment attacks.

These include what police described as a "despicable" pre-arranged assault on a man at football pitches on the Kilcooley estate.

The bullying has led to several UDA members leaving their homes in Bangor after running up drug debts.

It has also caused tension in Kilcooley with Dee Stitt's East Belfast UDA unit, which is unhappy at how the crimes have led to an increased PSNI presence on the estate.

Dee Stitt

The growing West Belfast UDA is also known to have an interest in a second business in nearby Newtownards.

The leader of the gang's 'D Company', convicted blackmailer Dickie Barry, uses these premises as a base.

Police estimate the West Belfast UDA to have at least 100 members in north Down and describe its recent growth as "significant".

North Belfast has been another target for expansion, with the Shankill gang taking control of drug operations in the Tigers Bay area.

Convicted cocaine dealers such as William 'Buff' Hunter (31) and Barry Thompson (36) now pay protection cash directly to the West Belfast UDA.

They had been lining the pockets of deposed North Belfast UDA boss Sam 'Bib' Blair, but that ended before Christmas when he was forced out in a bloodless internal coup.

His lucrative Tigers Bay drugs rackets are now in the hands of the West Belfast UDA.

The gang's 'brigadier', Matt Kincaid, denies being involved in the north Belfast takeover and sending 20 men into the Mount Bar in the enclave to stage a show of strength.

A representative of the veteran loyalist also told Sunday Life he has no links to criminality.

Earlier this month Chris Moore (27), David Majury (49) and Andrew Morrow (27) were jailed for their roles in the sinister Mount Bar incident.

According to detectives, the West Belfast UDA also has a sizeable presence in Antrim town. However, the group has faced opposition from rival criminals, leading to clashes over cash and threats being issued.

Two weeks ago criminals firebombed a car belonging to leading loyalist John 'Dougie' Lanigan, who was prominent during the flag protests.

The 56-year-old was arrested last June by the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce (PCT) in what it said was an operation aimed at the West Belfast UDA.

Lanigan and his wife Gail (49) later appeared in court charged with acquiring £70,000 of criminal property, concealing criminal property and entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property. They deny any wrongdoing.

In its most recent assessment of the West Belfast UDA, the PCT's Detective Inspector Ray Phelan said: "Criminal groups like this claim to be protecting their communities from crime.

"However, in reality, they themselves are heavily involved in a wide range of criminality including extortion, the supply of illegal drugs, counterfeit goods and money laundering."

Two senior members of the West Belfast UDA, convicted killer Mo Courtney and terror mouthpiece 'Dopey' Denis Cunningham, are currently on police bail, having been arrested in connection with a money-laundering investigation.

Cops involved in the anti-terror probe also seized a substantial sum of money from their properties and a car.

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph