Plaque commemorating slain UVF commander ‘found at home of Pitt Park accused’

A plaque commemorating a murdered UVF commander was discovered at the home of a man accused of leading a loyalist show of strength in east Belfast, a court heard today.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 1:44 pm
Masked men in Pitt Park

Prosecutors disputed claims that items seized from 58-year-old Stephen Matthews’ property all related First World War memorabilia.

Details emerged as Matthews and co-accused Derek Lammey, 56, were refused bail over their alleged involvement in a gathering of up to 60 masked men at Pitt Park on February 2.The group is believed to be linked to the East Belfast UVF, previous courts were told.

Police have claimed 11 residents fled their homes and sheltered in a nearby community centre for up to eight days.

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Lammey, from Spring Place in Belfast, Stephen Matthews, of Pansy Street in the city, and his 34-year-old son, David Matthews, of Millreagh in Dundonald, are jointly charged with unlawful assembly and affray.

With the case based on disputed identification evidence from police officers, all three defendants deny involvement.

According to the prosecution the group of men arrived in the area using scarves and hoods to cover their faces.

The gathering then split up, with Stephen Matthews and Lammey allegedly playing leadership roles as they headed the first sub-group into Pitt Park.

Last week David Matthews was granted bail on strict conditions, including a ban on entering Belfast.

At Belfast Magistrates’ Court today his two co-accused argued they should also now be released from custody to live at locations outside the city.

Opposing their applications, Crown counsel claimed there is stronger evidence against them, with a potential distinction in their alleged roles at the scene.

He also set out that a UVF flag and commemorative plaque was seized from Stephen Matthews’ house.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey stressed his client has not been charged with membership of the organisation.

“These are lawful items and they relate to First World War memorabilia,” he contended.

But the prosecutor responded: “The plaque itself is a commemorative plaque to Robert Seymour, who was murdered in 1988 by the IRA and was the East Belfast UVF commanding officer at the time he was murdered.

“It wasn’t the war, as in the First World War.”

Lammey’s solicitor, Ciaran Moynagh, insisted the charges involved no allegations of violence or criminal damage.

Denying bail, however, Judge Connolly ruled: “I’m not satisfied appropriate conditions could be put forward to allay the concerns of the court about the commission of further offences or the interference with witnesses.”

He remanded Stephen Matthews and Lammey in custody for a further two weeks.