UDA chiefs step up their purge as more members’ homes and cars attacked
On Friday evening, there were a series of follow-up attacks with yet more members expelled from the organisation
South East Antrim UDA stepped up their drugs purge with more expulsions this weekend.
The Sunday World can reveal that attacks on leading members of the breakaway terror group were prompted by their refusal to stop dealing in heroin and crack cocaine.
A number of prominent figures including commander Adrian Price were forced from their homes in a series of concerted attacks in Newtownards on Wednesday evening.
And on Friday evening there were a series of follow-up attacks with yet more members expelled from the organisation and ordered out of their homes.
It now means the UDA has little or no presence in the town.
The purge has been sanctioned by SEA Brigadier Gary Fisher and a three-man ruling committee at the top of the group, according to sources.
The attacks were aimed at a faction of SEA based in Newtownards allegedly headed by Price and ‘Scotch’ Brian McLean.
Price was once a close and trusted associate of SEA Brigadier Gary Fisher but well-placed sources say the pair had drifted apart, with Fisher furious Price and his mob had refused to toe the line.
He was one of a number of people whose homes were targeted by masked men armed with crowbars and baseball bats.
Tensions in the town, and in particular on the loyalist West Winds estate where Price lives, are said to have been high in recent weeks with Price’s mob blamed for a number of incidents in which residents had been intimidate and extorted.
The area is predominantly controlled by the rival UVF – raising concerns over a possible feud – but it is understood Fisher made his move after Price failed to get back in line.
The Sunday Worldunderstand the Newtownards unit is being blamed for bringing crack cocaine and heroin into the area and were hit because of their failure to stamp out the trade.
Dirty drug heroin is a no-no for the leadership of loyalist paramilitary groups who have ordered members to stamp it out.
The UVF in Belfast has moved against heroin dealers in Belfast and on the Shankill UFF drug kingpin Mo Courtney has come under fire for dealing heroin in the loyalist heartland.
Those expelled this week have been told there is no way back and that they can no longer rely on the UDA for protection.
Sources in the Co Down town say it is unlikely either Price or McLean were directly involved in drug dealing but as heads of the Newtownards faction would have benefited hugely from money generated by the trade.
SEA’s power base is centred on the Rathcoole estate on the outskirts of north Belfast, Carrick and Larne where they oversea highly lucrative drug rackets.
They have largely steered clear of heroin and crack because of fears of a community backlash, with the highly addictive drugs being blamed for a series of suicides in loyalist areas.
Price is believed to have been at home when a mob crashed through the door of his house in Bristol Park in the West Winds estate.
He is not believed to have been physically assaulted but is said to have been left “shaken’’ by the incident on Wednesday evening.
Ironically Price was a staunch Fisher ally during a damaging year-long feud in 2016 in Carrick which ended with the murder of former UDA commander Geordie Gilmore.
The hit came after a lengthy feud with Fisher’s SEA unit.
‘Scotch’ Brian was one of three men who were tried for and acquitted of Gilmore’s murder.
This week, PSNI Detective Sergeant Westbury said that eight masked men had attacked a property in the Cedar Drive area, using crowbars and hammers to smash doors and windows.
“The resident who was present at the time was uninjured, however has been left badly shaken by the attack,” he said.
A number of vehicles were also damaged.
There is no suggestion the UVF were involved, it was purely an “internal” matter although well-placed sources say the UVF would have been “aware” it was going to happen.
That was to ensure they would not intervene as it was wholly a UDA issue.
Police maintained a heavy presence in the area amid fears Price may retaliate, but sources say it is unlikely.
In graffiti that appeared in the area the attacks were claimed by North Down UFF.
Price was one of five convicted in relation to the murder of Colin Horner in Bangor in May 2017.
Horner had been close to the Gilmore faction during the Carrick feud and had taken to social media to condemn attacks carried out by SEA.
It was enough to have him sentenced to death and he was shot in front of his infant son as he got out of his car at Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor. Four men confessed to murder and were sentenced to terms of 15 and 16 years. Price was convicted of withholding information and walked free after being handed a suspended sentence.
Price and his gang have now been expelled and warned they can no longer rely on the organisation for protection.
Detective Sergeant Westbury said: “I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed this incident or who may have CCTV or other footage that could assist with inquiries to get in touch.”
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