19 April 2006

Adair link to fatal shooting by police


(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

A man shot dead by police while he was driving a stolen car had previously been jailed for threatening to shoot a constable.

Steven Colwell (23) was also a close friend of loyalist leader Johnny Adair's son and, although from a Protestant background, received the Last Rites because he was wearing a Celtic football top.

He was fatally wounded after police opened fire on the stolen BMW in Ballynahinch, Co Down, on Sunday morning.

In February 2001 Colwell was jailed for three years after he and a friend threatened to shoot a policeman while helping a third man to escape from police custody at a Belfast hospital.

Colwell and an accomplice, Ronald Allen, were jailed after the incident at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast where an associate, William Paul, had been taken by police after claiming to have taken drugs.

Paul had been under arrest at the time on suspicion of stealing a bottle of vodka.

A gun was pointed at a police constable who was ordered to let Paul go or be shot.

Colwell was arrested soon afterwards while Paul and Allen were picked up 10 days later.

Originally from Battenberg Street in the Shankill area of west Belfast, Colwell, then aged 18, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the escape, assaulting police and possessing a firearm.

In August 2001 he went on the run from Hydebank Young Offenders Centre after being released on home leave.

It is understood he had been living in Cullybackey, Co Antrim, after being the victim of so-called punishment beatings from both the UVF and UDA.

The car he was driving on Sunday is understood to have been stolen from a Co Down car dealership early that morning.

Catholic priest Canon Gerry McCrory was called to give the Last Rites after Colwell was mistaken for a Catholic because of his Celtic jersey.

The tradition of young loyalists from the Shankill wearing Celtic tops is believed to have originated with Johnny Adair, who wore Celtic jerseys while travelling through nationalist areas to plan attacks on Catholics.

It is understood that the dead man and Adair's son were close friends.

A relative of Adair's was in the car at the time of the shooting.

Speaking from England last night Adair said: "I felt sorry for the young guy because he had a lot of problems. His parents were both dead and he had got into a lot of trouble with the paramilitaries.

"I have been told they had stolen a car and were being chased by police.

"They didn't know the police had opened up on the car until Steven got out of the car shouting he'd been shot.

"It is a tragic loss of life."

April 19, 2006

This article appeared first in the April 18, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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