Cops bust UVF goon Matthews at east Belfast gym
UVF terror boss Stephen ‘Mackers’ Matthews got a workout he hadn’t planned for when he felt the heavyweight of the law at the gym this week.
The notorious paramilitary boss, who runs the equally notorious east Belfast brigade of the terror group, was arrested at his local fitness club.
And we can reveal that as part of the police crackdown a number of houses were also raided – one of which is believed to be the base for his money- laundering operation.
Armed cops swooped on the gym, which is walking distance from Matthews’ home, and where he works out three or four times each week.
Sources told the Sunday World around six police jeeps arrived at the club on Tuesday morning and took Matthews away before he was released later that day “pending further enquiries”.
“Mackers was furious after the cops busted into his gym and arrested him,” said a source.
“He was really embarrassed. He was shouting at the cops about something. I think he was raging because they did it so publicly.”
The significant arrest is part of a supposed new PSNI approach against Matthews and his gang which has been blamed for inflicting misery on the people of east Belfast.
Aside from being blamed for major street disorder after the Union flag dispute and flooding east Belfast with drugs, Matthews and his gang are believed to
have been behind several shootings including two murder attempts on his ex-mistress Jemma McGrath and his sworn enemy James ‘Hammy’ Hamilton.
Earlier this year we revealed that a new unit had been set up to target Matthews’ UVF gang in the aftermath of the murder bids.
The cop tasked with bringing Matthews down was brought in from Lisburn earlier this year but originally hailed from Dee Street which is smack in the middle of the terror boss’s turf.
Matthews was arrested in March and quizzed about the attacks on his former girlfriend Jemma McGrath and the botched murder bid of James Hamilton.
On Tuesday cops also seized a number of items and said they were being taken away for “further forensic examination”.
“The cops are intent on keeping their foot on the neck of Matthews,” said a police source.
“They want him to know they know
where he is and what he’s up to. This arrest is very significant but the raid on his money laundering house is just as big.
“It’s shaken the gang to its core and Matthews must be fearing if the police are going to torture him so much he simply can’t operate his criminal empire anymore.
“There are crisis meetings being held all over the place as he tried to figure out what he’s going to.”
Other loyalist sources have blamed the police for not taking this action sooner.
“The police have sat back for too long and allowed him to become very powerful,” said one east Belfast source.
“But they let him get out of control and now even the UVF hierarchy on the Shankill can’t rein him in. Mackers has been getting away with murder for years - for goodness sake the Sunday World have been writing about him for almost ten years!”
Last night police told the Sunday World: “Detectives from PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch arrested a 52-year-old man in East Belfast on Tuesday 27th, May as part of an ongoing investigation into criminality in the area. He was later released on police bail pending further enquiries.
“Another man, aged 44, was also arrested and subsequently released on police bail pending further enquiries.
“A number of properties were searched and several items were removed for further forensic examinations.”
It has been claimed the police may have scooped Matthews on Tuesday
just to mark his card in the run up to the marching season which is looming ever closer.
“The cops are letting him know that they are all over him and if he or his gang try and orchestrate trouble they will be ready this time.”
Mackers’ crime empire started to crumble when one of his most senior lieutenants was jailed for drug dealing.
Thirty-five-year-old David McConnell was banged up for six months for supplying Class B drugs with intent.
Last September Matthews apparently personally ordered the shooting of Jemma McGrath after it emerged the paramilitary chief once had a fling with the attractive blonde while she was a 16-year-old schoolgirl.
The UVF bosses on the Shankill did not sanction the attack but Matthews made it clear to them he didn’t care what they thought of him.
Since then the UVF in east Belfast have been operating almost as a separate entity from the rest of the terror group.
The organisation’s political wing, the PUP, has come under pressure from the NIO to rein in the terror group.