Belfast Telegraph

UDA thugs hounded tragic Belfast teen Nathan Ritchie to his death

Teenager made homeless by loyalist gangsters

By Ciaran Barnes

Tragic homeless teen Nathan Ritchie was hounded to his death by the UDA in Belfast.

The 19-year-old died earlier this month after falling from a bridge over Belfast’s Westlink and into oncoming traffic from the M1 motorway.

But the reason why Nathan was living on the streets was due to him TWICE being put out of his home by the East Belfast UDA.

Earlier in the year, the terror gang ordered him to leave his place on Lord Street over an unpaid drug debt.

That was after Nathan, from whom the UDA was demanding £600, fled Bangor under threat from members of notorious loyalist Dee Stitt’s gang.

Forced into becoming homeless, the much-loved teenager’s drug habit worsened, with it finally claiming his life two weeks ago when he fell from the Westlink bridge.

Loyalist sources last night laid his death firmly at the door of the East Belfast UDA. They also revealed that a community worker, whose wages are paid by the public purse, was the UDA thug who ordered Nathan out of his Lord Street home.

A PSNI spokesman refused to be drawn on the threats against the teen, saying it “does not comment on the security of individuals”.

The East Belfast UDA’s threats against Nathan Ritchie call into serious question the controversial decision to put its senior members in charge of a £1.7 million government funding package.

The Social Investment Fund (SIF) cash is being managed by Charter NI — the chief executive of which is convicted UDA gunman Dee Stitt, who is also the boss of a Bangor-based criminal gang. East Belfast UDA leader Jimmy ‘Millions’ Birch, 45, sits on Charter NI’s board of directors. There is no suggestion other board members are linked to the UDA.

Despite both men being self-confessed UDA men, the Executive Office has put the pair in charge of managing how £1.7 million of public money is spent on employment schemes in east Belfast. Another funding stream which Charter NI is trying to tap into is government cash for restorative justice projects.

The group is currently lobbying politicians to support its Resolve scheme which was recently endorsed by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI). Resolve gets £37,000 of Red Cross charity funding per year, but Charter NI wants to see that tripled with government cash injections.

A recent CJI report into Resolve found it has dealt with 28 cases of people being intimidated by the East Belfast UDA since being set up two years ago. But the study makes no mention of the project’s strong links to the terror gang making the threats.

Resolve’s full-time employee Sam ‘Chalky’ White is an ex-UDA prisoner turned failed DUP council candidate, who was jailed for seven years for firing shots during a robbery.

According to the CJI report both White and the Resolve project are making a “useful contribution” to community life in east Belfast.

It also noted backing for the group from an unnamed “local MLA” who was “very supportive of Resolve and keen to see it flourish in the interests of community cohesion”. The unnamed politician is the DUP’s Robin Newton, whose old office on the Castlereagh Road is occupied by the UDA-linked restorative justice group. The MLA is also a member of the SIF steering panel that recommended Charter NI’s £1.7m cash handout.

And he counts among his associates Charter NI board member Jimmy ‘Millions’ Birch — who is the self-styled ‘brigadier’ of the East Belfast UDA.

In a 2013 radio interview the leading loyalist admitted holding a senior role in the terror gang that he claimed to have joined in 1988.

Birch’s sidekick Dee Stitt, 45, took part in the same interview during which he confessed to being a UDA member from the age of 15.

But in a statement released last week, the Bangor-based loyalist glossed over his terror role, saying: “None of these allegations have been supported by evidence being presented to the PSNI.”

Stitt — whose Bangor UDA is up to its necks in drug dealing and racketeering — also claimed to be dedicated to helping improve the loyalist community through his position at Charter NI. The notorious loyalist served a five year prison term for an attempted UDA armed robbery in the 1990s.

In 2008 Stitt was back before the courts charged with kidnapping a man in Bangor and threatening to kill him after he was discovered in the boot of a car. However, the case against him and two co-accused was later dropped.


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