NewsNorthern Ireland

UDA "foot soldiers" to stand trial for attempted murder

A 100-strong UDA mob ransacked the house last March in Larne
A 100-strong UDA mob ransacked the house last March in Larne

By Paul Higgins

Two Greenisland men once described as "foot soldiers" in the UDA were today (thurs) ordered to stand trial accused of attempted murder and intimidation.

Standing in the dock of Ballymena Magistrates Court,  29-year-old  Steven Adam Blackwood and Stephen Craig Mettleton (34) were charged  with trying to kill a man after a gang of up to 100 loyalists smashed  their way into his home at Knockdhu Park in Larne on 30 March last year.

As well as attempted murder and aggravated burglary Blackwood, from  Moyard Gardens and Mettleton, from Rossmore Green in the town, are  also charged with causing criminal damage to the house and  intimidating both the male and a female to leave the property.

Alongside them in the dock today (thurs) was Ballyclare woman 37-year- old Elizabeth Sharon Anderson from Grange Park in the east Antrim town who faces a charge of attempting to pervert the course of  justice by allegedly providing Mettleton was a false alibi.

 The charges arise after serious public disorder involving a 100  strong gang armed with knives, machetes, golf clubs and hammers  smashed their way into a man’s home, wrecked various items inside and issued threats for the family to get out of Larne.

During earlier court hearings, Mettleton and Blackwood have been  described as "foot soldiers in the south east Antrim UDA" who can  allegedly be linked to the incident after the men's DNA was found on  a balaclava and gloves found in a bin near a house in Knockdhu Park.

Although no facts of the case were opened today (thurs), a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a Prima Facie case for the  trio to answer, based on the legal papers before the court and as  their solicitors had no contrary submissions, District Judge Des Perry said he was satisfied there was enough evidence to commit them to the Crown Court for trial.

All three accused were given the opportunity to comment on the charges, give evidence to the Preliminary Enquiry or call witnesses on their behalves but each declined to do so.

Releasing the defendants on continuing bail, Judge Perry extended  legal aid to allow senior barristers to be instructed and ordered the three to appear at Belfast Crown Court for arraignment on a date to  be fixed.