May 25th, 2016
NewsNorthern Ireland

How pair survived ambush by UVF

Northern IrelandBy Richard Sullivan
James 'Hammy' Hamilton was the target
James 'Hammy' Hamilton was the target
Bullet hole where driver was shot
Bullet hole where driver was shot
Bullet exited driver's neck
Bullet exited driver's neck

UVF godfather 'Ugly Doris' ordered two men to be shot in an ambush in Bangor but the bullet-ridden victims were able to sped away from the 'amateur' hitman.

Now UVF target James ‘Hammy’ Hamilton has vowed not to back down in his simmering feud with terror boss Stephen Matthews.

The Sunday World understands  the 31-year-old father of one is furious ‘Ugly Doris’ Matthews broke a “gentleman’s agreement” that there would be no further attacks providing Hamilton  stayed off his patch.

Last weekend’s gun attack in a Bangor housing estate was the seventh attempt on his  life in little more than two years.

This latest attack was the closest they have come to getting their man.

Hamilton has the driver of the car, his friend Danny,  to thank for his life – despite three gunshot wounds and bleeding heavily the 23-year-old managed to drive away from the scene.

Initial reports suggested it was Hamilton who had been hit three times in the upper body but we can reveal it was his friend Danny.

One bullet lodged in his neck close to a main artery and inches from his spinal chord.

The unemployed Co Down man left hospital within 24 hours of undergoing life-saving surgery amid fears that he could become an innocent victim of the Hamilton/Matthews feud.

The Sunday World has spoken to sources close to the shooting victim.

“He is a totally innocent man, he has no record and his only “crime” is that he is a friend of Hammy,” said our source.

Our contact, who is known to the victim, said Danny remains in shock and he revealed how close he came to death.  

We can reveal Hamilton was spotted as he arrived to visit a close relative  in a cul-de-sac in Bangor’s Whitehill housing estate around midnight last Sunday evening. Within minutes a call was made to Matthews who personally ordered the hit.

“Hammy asked Danny if he would give him a lift to Bangor, he wanted to visit a relative who had just come from holiday, Danny said he would,” said our source. 

“They’re mates; Danny knows what Hammy has been involved in but he has nothing to do with it, he’s totally clean.”

The Sunday  World understands the pair were inside the house in Bangor for only half an hour. As they drove away from the cul-de-sac they paused briefly, it was at that moment a lone gunman carrying a semi-automatic handgun approached the car.    

He pointed the weapon at Danny’s head with only the width of the car windscreen between them.

The driver ducked and the first shot hit him in the shoulder.  The would-be assassin fired again this time hitting Danny in the side with bullet exiting his neck. A third shot hit in him in the chest.  In all the attacker fired at least seven shots with only one finding his intended target.

Hamilton suffered a wound to his leg – his attempts to get out of the car were hampered by the fact their vehicle had come to rest close to a parked car.

“Hammy couldn’t open his door, he was convinced Danny was dead and that he was seconds from being shot dead himself. It was only when Danny groaned that he realised he was still alive. Hammy screamed “drive! drive!” and somehow Danny managed to get the car moving and they got away.”

Bleeding heavily the pair got themselves to hospital where Danny required a blood transfusion before undergoing major surgery. 

These shocking images passed to the Sunday World show how close he came to death.

Danny told our source he is convinced had  they waited for an ambulance he would have bled to death.

“Hammy knows his friend saved his life,  this time he really thought he was dead.”

The shooting is the latest in series of brazen attacks ordered by rogue terror boss Matthews.  The UVF mobster has been allowed to act with impunity orchestrating street violence during the flags protest, ordering punishment attacks and shootings including  the brutal attempted murder of his former lover Jemma McGrath.

Jemma was shot five times and left for dead last October by a masked gang acting on Matthews’ instructions.

Astonishingly PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has insisted the catalogue of terrorist acts ordered by Matthews and carried out by  his east Belfast unit do not constitute a breach of the UVF’s ceasefire.

In March 2012 Matthews ordered a bomb attack on Hamilton’s then home at Invernook Parade in east Belfast.   

Hamilton, a self confessed drug dealer and ex-con, was lucky to escape with his life when the device packed with powergel was planted at the front door of the house. 

He was upstairs at the time and blast wrecked the downstairs of the terraced house.

He has  now been shot seven times, all on the orders of  out of control  UVF boss Matthews.  

In January last year Matthews had a narrow escape himself  when he was approached by a lone gunman outside his East Belfast home. The masked man’s gun jammed and Doris survived.  The finger of blame was pointed at Hamilton and he was questioned by police but no charges were brought.

The feuding pair struck a deal – there would be no further attempts on his life, proving Hamilton stayed out of east Belfast.

“Hammy was terrified a member of his family or an innocent bystander could  lose their life as a result of the feud, he’s not afraid of Matthews but he doesn’t want a innocent person dying,” said the source.

“Hammy has stuck to his side of the bargain and stayed away. He was in Bangor for half an hour in the middle of the night and somebody clocked him and wired off Matthews.”

Within 20 minutes the UVF was able to have a gun on the streets and someone prepared to commit murder – and this from an organisation supposed to be on ceasefire. Even the Powergel used in the bomb attack on his home 18 months ago was supposed to have been decommissioned.

The only reason Hamilton is alive, say our sources, is that the shooter was an “amateur.”  Matthews has been forced to rely on untested gunman as 

UVF veterans are reluctant to risk jail to settle a score for their boss.

“He had clearly been told what to do, take out the driver first so that there was no chance of a getaway,” said the source.  

“Danny should be dead; there’s no way he should have  survived when he was that close. 

“The shooter wasn’t clinical;  Hammy has said he didn’t know how to handle his gun, he looked uncomfortable.

“I wouldn’t have liked to be in his shoes when he reported back to Matthews that Hammy was still alive.”

Hamilton has  told friends that he has no intention of seeking confrontation with Matthews, but the UVF chief has made it clear he has no intention of burying the hatchet.

There are now  real fears that Matthews is out of control.    He refuses to take orders from the UVF leadership and has created his own fiefdom in the east of the city where he commands total control, running a huge drugs racket, loan sharking scams and racketeering.