NewsNorthern Ireland

Northern Ireland soccer star put out of her own area by loyalist hoods

Paula Graham, shook hands with the Sandy Row UDA commander Tony Nellons, after he agreed that her daughter Billie could visit her father in the area free of interference.
Paula Graham, shook hands with the Sandy Row UDA commander Tony Nellons, after he agreed that her daughter Billie could visit her father in the area free of interference.

The UDA has barred an international sport star from her own area because she was wrongly accused of throwing a kebab at a mobster’s daughter.

The Sunday World lifts the lid on three decades of murder, intimidation and violence which has culminated in a farcical row at a fast food restaurant and which has resulted in an innocent young woman being ordered out.

At the heart of the hate campaign is a notorious UDA linked criminal family. Led by a father figure who was once a close associate of South Belfast Brigadier Jackie McDonald they control a significant crime operation.

The head of the family, a former Sandy Row commander was put of the area by McDonald but the family still control drugs and extortion rackets in the district.

We can reveal that current Sandy Row commander roly-poly Tony Nellons, cruelly dubbed ‘The Gout Lout’ because he suffers the arthritic condition, opted to back the crime family and ordered 23-year-old football international Billie Simpson not to return to her native area.

Billie, a Northern Ireland international and who currently plays for Cliftonville Ladies, was wrongly accused of throwing a kebab at a female member of the crime family.

It was enough for the UDA to order her to stay away.

“I got a call from the John McMichael Centre [advice centre on Sandy Row] to be told Billie was not welcome back on the Road because she threw a kebab at this girl. You couldn’t make it up,” Billie’s mother Paula told the Sunday World.


“It was the Thursday before Easter weekend.”

Billie vented her fury on social media labelling those who made the decision as ‘glue bags.’

“I went to the McMichael centre on the Monday, and that was when two men, one of them Tony Nellons came in. He was furious and was shouting ‘I’m no glue bag’.

“But when he calmed down and I explained the situation he shook my hand and told me he would go round and talk to the family and it would be sorted. I really thought we had sorted it out.”

He said Billie would be allowed to continue to visit her father and other relatives still living on Sandy Row, free from interference.

The following day she was called again from the McMichael Centre.

“The person told me ‘Paula, he’s [Nellons] has changed his mind, Billie’s not welcome on Sandy Row because she had disrespected the UDA.”

A furious Paula demanded to speak to Jackie McDonald but was told he was backing his commander and would not be getting involved.

Billie has been singled out and targeted in a latest stage of a three decade war of attrition between her family and the loyalist terror group.

She is named after her grandfather Billy Dickson, murdered by the UDA in 1986. A member of the organisation, he was shot in the toilet of the Kimberley Bar in south Belfast.

He had been lured to the notorious watering hole by a prominent UDA figure, later linked to the murders of five innocent Catholics at Sean Graham’s bookies on the Ormeau Road in 1992.

A lone gunman wearing a motorcycle helmet entered the bar and shot Mr Dickson five times in the back and head. The killing was put down to an internal UDA feud.

The UDA leader at the time John McMichael visited the dead man’s widow and said the paramilitary group would pay for the funeral. Mrs Dickson declined.

“There was no feud, my daddy just stood up to them and they didn’t like it. He could see the way the UDA was going and didn’t want anything to do with it. He was right, look at them now.

“That was the start of it and my family has been targeted ever since.”

The family lived in the Belvoir area at the time of the murder and her mother, a native of Sandy Row decided to move the family there.

“It was the worst decision we ever made.”

Now Billy’s granddaughter has been targeted because she had the courage to stand up to the UDA linked crime family.

“I had to speak out, I’m sick of this, our lives have been ruined by the UDA, I don’t want that for my daughters,” said Paula.

Speaking to the Sunday World at her new home away from Belfast,  she said she is convinced they singled Billie out because she ‘beat’ the crime boss during a confrontation in a Sandy Row Social Club last year.

“We had been out for dinner as a family and had gone to the Rangers Supporters Club afterwards. This man saw my husband outside having a smoke and he came barging into the club and assaulted me. Billie flipped and gave him a hammering, people who saw it said she was like a machine.

“I don’t like talking about them, I would prefer to ignore them but what can I do.”

The night of the confrontation at the Rangers club Paula’s then home on Sandy Row was surrounded by a mob carrying baseball bats and iron bars. It wasn’t the first time the house was targeted.

Paula revealed she has been assaulted inside her own home. The house was firebombed – local man Gary Audley, a convicted murderer was arrested in connection with the incident but no charges were ever brought – the property has been paint-bombed repeatedly.

The homes of relatives, including her elderly mother have been attacked and damaged.

“It’s all about this family, the UDA seems too frightened to stand up to them, they do what they want.”

Two years ago members of her family were assaulted by a UVF mob at Barrington Street Rangers Supporters Club – one of those involved has close connections to the crime family.

“It has become a vicious circle, it has to end. I’m terrified what they might do to my daughters given the chance. It’s the only reason I’m speaking out.