October 31st, 2014

New Beast in the East emerges as Stephen Matthews 'steps down'

Northern IrelandBy Jim McDowell
Stephen Matthews due to stand aside as East Belfast UVF leader
Stephen Matthews due to stand aside as East Belfast UVF leader
Gemma McGrath
Gemma McGrath

This is the stoney-faced suspected UVF hitman tipped to take over from terrorist Godfather Stephen ‘Ugly Doris’ Matthews in East Belfast.

The Sunday World can reveal the UVF ‘hardman’ being tipped to take over his ‘Commander’ post is suspected hitman Mark Sewell. 

But he will be boss in name only with Matthews continuing to pull the strings on his cash laden criminal empire.

Blond-haired bully boy Matthews has ruled the roost from his Ballymacarrett lair for over 15 years. 

Him and his paramilitary peons have pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds out of protection rackets and poisoning kids with drugs. 

But now Matthews, 52, dubbed in Sunday World ‘The Ghost Godfather’ last week because he spends so much time in sun-soaked Spain, has decided to step down. 

One prime reason is the ‘heat’ recently turned up on him by top anti-terror cops – the PSNI boss of whom was born and reared close to Matthews’ HQ in Dee Street off the Newtownards Road.

His men have recently been tracking every move of Matthews and his mob. 

Said one source: “The cops are even stopping the cars of him and his cohorts to check tax discs.”

As reported before in Sunday World, Sewell was one of the U VF’s suspected top hitmen who police believe was behind a series of bloodlettings between UVF and LVF drugs gangs. 

He was also named in a sensational trial in 2009 of UVF ‘consiglieri’, bent lawyer Johnny ‘Handbags’ Sandhu, who was convicted of inciting UVF gunmen to kill a named individual. 

During a vicious internicine loyalist feud with the LVF 10 years ago, police had arrested Sewell and another UVF ‘heavy’, Christopher ‘Dinsy’ Dinsmore, for questioning over the murders of Jameson Lockhart in East Belfast in July 2005 and LVF Brigadier Brian Stewart on the Montgomery Road in May 2004. 

Neither suspects were ever charged with the murders. 

At the time, Sunday World also revealed that suspect killer Sewell was working as a greenkeeper – at a posh suburban golf club where some unsuspecting members were also senior officers in the PSNI.

Matthews has decided to step aside and concentrate on running a pub he and his criminal cohorts have ‘hijacked’. 

In that respect, he’s following in the footsteps of his brother, Gary. 

Gary Matthews was the main ‘business’ partner of another East Belfast crime boss, Jim ‘Doris Day’ Gray, the original ‘Brigadier of Bling’ of the UDA. 

 Jim Gray and Michael Stone 

Gray was eventually assassinated on October 4, 2005, by someone close to Matthews.... again, because Gray was bringing too much ‘heat’ on the criminal activities of the UDA.

Both Gary Matthews and ‘Doris’ ran two pubs, the Avenue One and the Bunch of Grapes, in East Belfast. 

A couple of grisly killings were carried out in the Bunch of Grapes, on the corner of the Beersbridge Road. 

Original gangster godfather Jimmy Craig was shot dead in October 1998 in the front bar of what was then called the Castle Inn after being lured there from his base on the Shankill Road. 

And Geordie Legge, once a close ‘Commander’ of Gray’s UDA mob, was tortured and stabbed to death in the back lounge of what later became known as ‘The Bunch’ in January 2001 for allegedly betraying Jim Gray in an assassination plot. 

What’s happening now is eerily and uncannily similar to what happened then. 

UVF crime boss Stephen Matthews was dubbed ‘Ugly Doris’ – because he seemed to bask in the cavalier and playboy image of his UDA forerunner in the East, Jim Gray. 

But now he, too, seems to be opting for a quieter life...to run a pub the UVF have ‘taken over’. 

Behind him, for the first time, we understand a woman will be pulling the paramilitary strings as No. 2 in replacing ‘Ghost Godfather’ Matthews. 

She’s already been dubbed ‘The Banshee’ on the streets of Ballymacarrett in the East of the city. 

She’s a very vocal and prominent loyalist flags protestor who once tried, unsuccessfully, to get a Sunday World reporter and other members of the Press, thrown out of a meeting hosted by Castlereagh Borough Council. 

Said one senior security force source last night: “We’ve been keeping an eye on the activities of ‘The Banshee’ for quite some time. 

“She’s a bigot whose vitriol has come close to having her charged with hate crime offences in the past. 

 

“We’re monitoring her situation. And we’re already on top of the tip-off that Sewell is set to take over from Stephen Matthews as head of this still illegal organisation, the UVF, in East Belfast.”

Matthews – whose mob has been operating without sanction or outside the centralised control of the UVF leadership at the ‘Eagle’ HQ on the Shankill – has had to step aside, but not out of the illegal organisation altogether – because of the ‘heat’ being put on him by special anti-terror cops. 

We also revealed in May that Matthews was nicked by armed cops while he trained at his favourite East Belfast gym. 

But, again, he was questioned and released without charge. 

That came in the wake of the shooting almost a year ago of 26-year-old Gemma McGrath, an ex-schoolgirl partner of Matthews’, in East Belfast. 

She was shot five times in the legs and body in a murder bid.

And in February of this year, the UVF tried to assassinate James ‘Hammy’ Hamilton in an ambush in Bangor in County Down. 

He escaped death. But his mate in the targetted car, who showed us his wounds afterwards, and wanted to be identified only as ‘Danny’, suffered multiple bullet wounds and was lucky to be alive. 

Cops took at close look at Sewell after that shooting . 

Now, Sewell is being earmarked as Matthews’ Godfather successor.