11 May 2006

Jail for UDA 'kidnap squad'


(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

Three loyalists jailed for a total of 34 years yesterday (Tuesday) were part of a UDA kidnapping team.

Security sources last night linked the gang to a series of robberies, including the kidnapping of a bank official's family in north Belfast less than a month before they were finally captured.

Loyalist sources claim robberies were being carried out to try to clear chronic gambling debts amassed by north Belfast UDA 'brigadier' Andre Shoukri.

William Seenan (45) of Hesketh Park, Stephen Douglas (24) of Bilston Road and Jonathan Rossborough (24) of Twinburn Road, all north Belfast, were jailed yesterday over the attempted abduction of a bank official's fiancee in November 2004.

The plot came four days after Andre Shoukri read out a UDA public statement in Tiger's Bay in north Belfast claiming the organisation was ending all involvement in criminal activity.

The UDA men were arrested after a PSNI undercover operation at the bank official's home at Loopland Gardens in east Belfast.

A team of officers took over the house and the official's fiancee was 'replaced' by a female police officer.

Seenan was seen on several occasions in the area and in the vicinity of a First Trust Bank in north Belfast in the days leading up to the attempted kidnapping.

On the day of the abduction bid, all three men were spotted in Loopland Avenue dressed in workmen's clothing, pretending to be working on roadworks.

The UDA men were watched as they approached the bank official's home and Rossborough knocked on the door.

When the female officer answered he produced a gun and pushed her back into the house. However, he was quickly overpowered by other officers hiding in the hallway.

Seenan and Douglas were arrested close to the scene.

During a follow-up search of Seenan's car, details of the bank official's fiancee were found along with a baton and cable ties which were to be used to tie her up.

The pistol was found to be a replica modified for live rounds, but was not loaded at the time.

The court was told that following the attempted abduction, the bank official and his fiancee were forced to move home and change jobs.

Seenan, who has served an 18-year sentence for attempted murder, was said to have played a leading role in the plot and was sentenced to 14 years' jail yesterday.

His barrister, Eugene Grant QC, said his client had been a "foot soldier" in the abduction attempt.

Douglas and Rossborough's barrister, Arthur Harvey QC, said both men had become involved after "attracting attention" from paramilitaries.

They were sentenced to 10 years in jail, with a year's probation when released.

All three were given 18-month concurrent sentences for conspiracy to assault and concurrent five-year terms for possession of the weapon.

Rossborough was given an additional five-year concurrent sentence for assaulting a police officer.

Prominent north Belfast loyalists Alan McClean and William Mullan were originally charged with similar offences, but the charges were subsequently withdrawn.

Mullan, who has previously been convicted of a sectarian murder and was released under the Good Friday Agreement, is currently opposing the Secretary of State's decision to return him to prison.

Yuk Shoukri, whose brothers Andre and Ihab are alleged to control the UDA in north Belfast, attended a previous court hearing in the abduction case.

Security sources last night confirmed that Seenan, Rossborough and Douglas were all members of a north Belfast UDA kidnapping team.

The trio are understood to be the main suspects in a similar kidnapping less than a month before they were arrested.

In that robbery a gang of five masked men dressed in workmen's clothing burst into the home of a Post Office employee on the Deerpark Road in north Belfast shortly after 9.30pm on Sunday October 17.

The employee's husband and two daughters, aged three and six, were taken barefoot from the house in their night clothes and at gunpoint and driven to a derelict house in Antrim where they were held for several hours.

The woman was then forced to go to Deerpark Post Office and remove a substantial sum of money from a safe, which was handed over to the kidnappers.

Although the gang claimed to be from the INLA, it is understood the three UDA men were questioned about the Deerpark kidnapping when arrested.

There are currently more than 20 north Belfast UDA members in Magahaberry prison serving sentences or awaiting trial on extortion, racketeering and drug dealing charges.

May 11, 2006

This article appeared first in the May 10, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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