EXCLUSIVE: UVF chiefs scooped up by cops
UVF chief Eddie ‘Onions’ Rainey is one of five terror chiefs facing an attempted murder probe.
Cops scooped the top layer of the loyalist paramilitary group in south Belfast in the wake of an aborted gun attack on a house in the Sandy Row area of the city this week.
The Sunday World can reveal that Rainey, along with sidekick Eddie ‘The Bully’ Ewart, and close associates Darren ‘Lightning’ Purdy, Mark Campbell and Davy Whitley were all detained and questioned following the latest in a series of attacks against a prominent loyalist family.
Two masked men, each carrying handguns, fled from a house on Blythe Street after a failed assassination attempt.
Although police are treating the incident as attempted murder the blatant gun attack ordered and carried out by the UVF will raise questions about the state of the terror group’s ceasefire.
The Sunday World can reveal that the intended target had a lucky escape after one of the would-be gunman’s pistol failed to fire.
A follow up police operation recovered a number of items including live rounds, and an iron bar which had been shoved down a drain.
They also detained coke head Rainey and his cohorts. Onions’ credibility has nosedived as he plunges the organisation deeper and deeper into the drugs trade. He is also believed to have orchestrated a campaign of race hate attacks across south Belfast.
Taxi driver Ewart is his commander in the loyalist enclave of Suffolk. A former UDA member he was kicked out of the organisation because of his alleged involvement in drugs.
Ex-jailbird Purdy has a nine-year prison sentence under his belt after cops raided his home in 2001 and uncovered a bomb making factory.
Lightning – he earned the nickname because he is so slow – was living in New Mossley and was constructing pipe bombs in a caravan parked outside his house.
Police also recovered a gun, ammunition and a list of names of former republican prisoners. His wife Linda was also arrested at the time.
Thug Whitley served four years for armed robbery and possession of a pump action shotgun.
Close pal Mark Campbell was also detained. All five were released on police bail and are expected to be returned for further questioning next week.
The full details of the attack, which is believed to have been the eighth aimed at the same family in the space of four months, have emerged.
Replacement glass had just been fitted to the house after windows were smashed when a 30 strong mob laid siege to the home last month.
The owner’s 23-year-old son who suffers from a chronic heart condition was trapped inside the house as he crazed attackers tried to force their way in .
He required hospital treatment and has been too upset and frightened to return.
Sources have told us the householder was at home with his other 14-year-old son shortly after 11pm on Wednesday night when a brick was thrown at the windows.
The Sunday World understands the target ran from the house carrying a machete and came face to face with one of the masked gunmen in his garden.
He threw the hatchet at the gunman as he raised the pistol to fire. Sources close to the target have said he believes it bought him a few vital seconds to escape back into the house.
As the gunman dodged the flying hatchet he tried to loose off a shot. Three times he tried and three times the gun failed.
“He (the target) heard the three clicks as he ran into the house.”
By the time the second gunman emerged from the side of the house he was back inside.
He pulled his son into a bedroom at the back of the house in case the gunmen fired through the windows. He was able to watch his attackers on CCTV try to clear the gun before they gave up and made off.
The UVF has made several botched attempts to kill the veteran loyalist and have targeted other members of his family. His home has been fitted with reinforced glass and is equipped with security cameras.
Last month homes on Blythe Street had to be evacuated after a replica hand grenade was left at his back gate. On several occasions attackers have tried to set fire to the property while the family slept inside.
But this week’s attack is the closest they have come to succeeding.
Police were finally forced into action after months of rising tension within the UVF in south Belfast.
Rainey has conducted a personal vendetta against the family after they objected to his partnership with an east European drugs and prostitution gang.
As previously reported the personal campaign of intimidation waged by Onions was on the brink of boiling over into all out violence.
It is Rainey’s relationship with a gang known as the Russians and the wholesale influx of high grade cocaine and heroin that is at the root of the crisis.
The organised crime gang is allowed to peddle their drugs free from interference in return for supplying Onions and his cronies with enough to keep them permanently stoned.
A number of UVF veterans moved against the Russians which has resulted in them being targeted by their own organisation – with one family in particular being singled out.