Military Wiki
Davy Payne
Birth name David Payne
Nickname "Psychopath"
Born c. 1949
Died March 2003 (aged 54)
Place of birth Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK
Place of death Belfast
Allegiance Ulster Freedom Fighters
Ulster Defence Association
Rank Brigadier
Unit North Belfast Brigade (1974-1988)
Conflict The Troubles

H. David "Davy" Payne (c. 1949 – March 2003) was a senior Northern Irish loyalist and a high-ranking member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) during the Troubles, serving as brigadier of the North Belfast Brigade. He was second-in-command of the Shankill Road brigade of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), which was the "cover name" of the militant branch of the UDA. The group was responsible for a series of abductions and brutal killings of random Catholic men and women in the early 1970s.

He was arrested after being stopped at a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) checkpoint while driving the "scout" (lead) car for his UDA colleagues whose cars' boots contained large caches of weapons imported from Lebanon.[1] He was convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison.[2]

Ulster Defence Association

The Shankill Road neighbourhood of Belfast, as it appeared in the early 1970s. This was where Davy Payne grew up and co-commanded the Ulster Freedom Fighters

Payne was born in Belfast and grew up in the Shankill Road neighbourhood of West Belfast in a Free Presbyterian family. He was one of the original members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) when it was formed from loyalist vigilante groups in September 1971. These groups, including the Woodvale Defence Association (WDA) and Shankill Defence Association (SDA), had sprung up following the outbreak in the late 1960s of the violent religious/political conflict known as The Troubles. Payne, who had been a supporter of Gusty Spence and had rioted in 1966 following Spence's arrest, had been a member of both the Ulster Volunteer Force and Tara but took his entire "team" over to the UDA upon that organisation's foundation.[3]

As the civil disorder, rioting, and attacks carried out by the Provisional IRA escalated, the Protestant community felt increasingly under threat, and the groups were created as a means of defence. These vigilante units merged in 1971 to become the UDA. Author Sarah Nelson stated that "the vigilantism of summer and autumn 1969 was one of the foundation stones of the Ulster Defence Association".[4]

A former British Army paratrooper, Payne had been interned in the early 1970s.[5][6] He became commander of the UDA's C Company, 2nd Battalion Shankill Road, West Belfast Brigade, and the second-in-command of the Shankill Road brigade of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), which was the "cover name" of the UDA's militant branch. Beginning in May 1972 (although the UFF was not "officially" formed until 1973),[n 1] as part of their violent, retaliatory campaign against the nationalist population whom they believed was giving full support to the Provisional IRA, the group would abduct random Catholic men and women from nationalist areas, then beat, torture and kill them.[7][8]

Payne was described as one of the UDA's most violent and feared killers,[9] and was also a member of the Orange Order belonging to the 'Old Boyne Island Heroes' lodge.[10] Irish journalist Kevin Myers called him "one of the most ferocious savages in the history of Irish terrorism". Payne was said to have invented the notorious "romper rooms" where the UDA interrogated and tortured their victims.[11] According to author Ian S. Wood, Payne was addicted to the use of knives and sadistically tortured his victims before killing them;[12] this earned him the nickname of "The Psychopath".[9] He also served as the UDA's "Provost-Marshall", the officer in charge of mainitaining internal discipline, another role in which he garnered a fearsome reputation.[3]

Beginning in early 1973, there was an internal feud and power struggle within the UDA which would last until 1975. Its former leader, the West Belfast brigadier Charles Harding Smith, quarrelled with Payne, and then ordered him off the Shankill Road on account of the latter's support of his rival, Andy Tyrie. Tyrie, who in 1973 had succeeded as UDA commander, retaliated against Harding Smith by promoting Payne to the rank of brigadier in 1974 and subsequently gave him command of the UDA's North Belfast Brigade.[13] Although Tyrie was overall commander of the UDA, brigadiers in the organisation enjoyed a large degree of autonomy and regarded their own territory as "their personal fiefdoms".[14] Payne was described by Wood as having been a friend of Tyrie.[13]

Fellow UDA member Glenn Barr believed that Payne on one occasion had saved his life:

"I owe my life to Davy Payne because there had been a plan within a section of the UDA to have me killed because I had been part of a delegation which had gone to Libya to have talks with Colonel Gadafy in 1974. Davy Payne went to those people and told them I was under his protection and I have no doubt this saved my life.[13]

Alleged killings and attacks

On 21 July 1972, Payne, along with some of his UDA associates, allegedly carried out the double killing of Rosemary McCartney, a young Catholic singer from West Belfast, and her boyfriend, Patrick O'Neill. Earlier on this same day, the IRA had exploded 22 bombs in Belfast, killing nine people, and injuring 130. One of the dead included a member of the UDA, William Irvine (18). This event became known as Bloody Friday. The couple had been stopped at a UDA roadblock and taken to one of the "romper rooms" for a "grilling" (interrogation) which was presided over by Payne, who like his companions, wore a mask. According to Kevin Myers, Payne supervised the beating and torturing of O'Neill, who was repeatedly burnt with cigarette butts. After a card was found in Rosemary McCartney's bag which identified her as a singer, Payne asked her whether she was in fact an actual singer. After the woman replied in the affirmative, Payne told her to "prove it". When she inquired how, he answered "by singing". McCartney was forced to sing in front of Payne and the others, then she and her boyfriend were subsequently forced into a car and shot to death, supposedly by Payne. Their bodies were discovered the following day in an abandoned car in Glencairn. Rosemary McCartney had been shot three times in the face.[11] In June 1973, Payne reportedly took part in the double killing of Social Democratic and Labour Party Senator Paddy Wilson and his Protestant friend Irene Andrews, who was one of Belfast's most popular ballroom dancers.[15] Sen. Wilson had offered her a lift home from a Belfast city centre pub. Following a telephone call to a newspaper from the UFF using their code name "Captain Black", Wilson and Andrews' mutilated bodies were found five hours later lying in pools of blood beside Wilson's car in a quarry off the Hightown Road. They had both been stabbed and hacked to death in what appeared to have been a frenzied attack. Wilson was stabbed a total of 30 times and his throat slashed from ear-to-ear; Andrews was knifed 20 times.[16] Payne was afterwards questioned by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) but admitted nothing.[5] The first-in-command of the UFF's Shankill Road brigade, John White was convicted of the crime after he had confessed to it in 1978. It was claimed that Payne would scream at those he wanted to frighten or intimidate: "Do you know who I am? I'm Davy Payne. They say I killed Paddy Wilson".[9] Payne was never convicted of any of the murders that were attributed to him. He established the reputation of the UDA/UFF's notorious C Company, 2nd Battalion Shankill Road, West Belfast Brigade. This would eventually come under the control of Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, who looked up to Payne as a hero of all loyalists.[9]

RUC Special Patrol Group (SPG) officer John Weir alleged that Payne had been involved in the Dublin car bombings which took place on 17 May 1974 and killed a total of 26 people in three separate city-centre explosions.[17] In 2003, Weir's allegations that Payne, along with senior Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members, Billy Hanna and Robin Jackson, had led one of the UVF teams that bombed Dublin, were published in the Barron Report which were the findings of an official investigation into the bombings by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron. Payne, when questioned earlier, had denied he had been involved in the car bombings,[6] although he admitted to having met Weir in prison.[6]

Arrest and conviction

Payne left the UDA in the mid 1970s over the continuing allegations that he had misappropriated UDA funds. Away from the group he set up as a community worker and also set up a number of youth training schemes. These initiatives, many of which were of a cross-community nature, briefly saw Payne held up as an example of a reformed character and he was praised by the Peace People and invited to speak in Dublin.[3] Payne's relationship with Tyrie was damaged on account of a speech he made warning young men away from paramilitary involvement and in April 1978 his house was even shot at by UDA members.[3][5] Soon after this attack however Payne's second career came to an end when he was investigated by a civil servant over allegations of fraud.[18] However, rather than contest the allegations Payne closed down his operations and, having rebuilt his relationship with Tyrie, accepted his invitation to return as North Belfast Brigadier.[19] Tyrie worried that the Brigade was making no money and also feared a small group of members who were carrying out a series of sectarian murders under their own steam and felt that Payne could restore order to the area.[19] Payne was not popular with many local members, who resented his bullying techniques.[19]

In the 1980s, persistent allegations of stealing UDA funds were levelled against him and he made many enemies within the organisation.[9] The UDA also accused him of complicity in the assassination of South Belfast brigadier John McMichael, who was blown up in a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA outside his Lisburn home on 22 December 1987.[20] In that same year, the police were aware that he was involved in an operation to steal weapons from an army base.[9] On 8 January 1988, he was arrested in Portadown after being stopped at an RUC checkpoint. At the head of a small convoy of vehicles, Payne was driving the "scout" car (an Austin Maestro) for his UDA colleagues whose own cars' boots contained the UDA's share of a large consignment of weapons which had been smuggled from Lebanon and destined for loyalist paramilitaries.[21] The load consisted of 30 Browning pistols, 61 AK-47s, 150 grenades, 124 magazines and 11,000 rounds of ammunition.[19] Fibres from Payne's clothing were found on the weapons, and his name had been used as a reference for hiring the cars.[22] According to journalist Peter Taylor, there was little doubt at the time that he had been set up by an informer within the UDA.[23] Payne was sentenced to 19 years in prison.[2] He did not, however, serve the full sentence. His succession as brigadier was not a smooth one although after a disagreement, Tyrie relented and allowed the North Belfast members to promote their own man as Brigadier rather than an outside candidate whom Tyrie had hoped to parachute in.[19] Tom Reid ultimately emerged as the new leader.


He died of a heart attack in March 2003 at the age of 54.[9][13] A widower, Payne was survived by two sons. After a service which was held on 19 March 2003 at his home in Snugville Street off the Shankill Road, several hundred mourners attended his funeral. He was then cremated.[24]


  1. The Ulster Freedom Fighters were formed in 1973 as a "cover name" for the militant branch of the UDA, so the latter, who were then a legal organisation, could avoid being proscribed by the British government


  1. Peter Taylor, Loyalists, pp. 191-2
  2. 2.0 2.1 Taylor, p.192
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Steve Bruce, The Red Hand, Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 253
  4. Nelson, Sarah (1984). Ulster's Uncertain Defenders: Protestant Political, Paramilitary and Community Groups and the Northern Ireland Conflict. Belfast: Appletree Press. p. 82
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Troops Out Movement: Dublin and Monaghan Bombings
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Houses of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence, and Women's Rights, Interim on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. December 2003. (The Barron Report 2003). p.158
  7. Peter Taylor. (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. pp. 115-6
  8. Sarah Nelson. (1984). Ulster's Uncertain Defenders: Protestant Political, Paramiltary and Community Groups and the Northern Ireland Conflict. Belfast: Appletree Press. pp. 117-27
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 "Davy Payne, aka, 'the Psychopath' dies". Irish Echo. Jack Holland. 26 March-1 April 2003 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "autogenerated1" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "autogenerated1" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Brian Kennaway The Orange Order-A Tradition Betrayed page 47
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Death in Details". The Scotsman. Simon Pia. 10 July 2003
  12. Wood, Ian S. (2006). Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA. p. 13
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Wood, Ian S. (2006). Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA. Edinburgh University Press. p.60
  14. Taylor, p.199
  15. Wood, Ian S. (2006). Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA. Edinburgh University Press. p.105
  16. Taylor, p.118
  17. Houses of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, Interim Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. December 2003. (The Barron Report 2003). p.146'
  18. Bruce, The Red Hand, pp. 253-254
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Brice, The Red Hand, p. 254
  20. Wood, pp.133-34
  21. Taylor, pp.191-192
  22. Newshound: Daily Northern Ireland news catalog, Retrieved on 13 October 2009
  23. Taylor, p.192
  24. "Ulster Today: Funeral of former Shankill UDA chief". The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland). 20 March 2003. retrieved on 10 October 2009


  • Ian S. Wood (2006). Crimes of Loyalty: a history of the UDA. Edinburgh University Press
  • Peter Taylor (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. ISBN 0-7475-4519-7
  • Sarah Nelson (1984). Ulster's Uncertain Defenders: Protestant Political, Paramilitary and Community Groups and the Northern Ireland Conflict. Belfast: Appletree Press ISBN 0-904651-89-4

External links

Other offices
Preceded by
Ulster Defence Association North Belfast Brigadier
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ulster Defence Association North Belfast Brigadier
Succeeded by
Tom Reid

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