A Larne father-of-one whose body was found in an alleyway just yards from his home had suffered a violent death, police said last night.
Detectives confirmed they have launched a murder hunt after Kenneth Nicholl (29) was found dead in an alleyway next to the Herbert Avenue home that he shared with his partner and young son.
Detective Chief Inspector John Roberts said Mr Nicholl, a welder at Ballylumford power station, was stabbed to death on Sunday morning.
He said a motive for the murder has not yet been established and appealed for anyone with information about Mr Nicholl’s whereabouts in the days prior to his death and particularly between 8pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday to contact them.
A large team of detectives, police officers and forensic officers carried out searches in the area for several hours yesterday.
At one stage all drains along two residential streets were emptied by forensics officers and the contents sifted through. It is understood they were looking for a knife or a blade.
A single bouquet of flowers had been laid at the bottom of the alleyway where Mr Nicholl’s body had been found.
Devastated family members gathered at his father’s home in the town yesterday morning but said they were too distraught to talk at this time.
One of his friends, Don Hogg, said he had been with Mr Nicholl in a nearby social club on Saturday evening.
“We were out for a few drinks on Saturday. His father came to pick him up and leave him home at about 10.30pm. Apparently he dropped him off at his door. While we were out Ken did not get into an argument with anyone or anything like that so I have no idea what happened to him. He was a quiet young lad. Nobody deserves what happened to him.”
A number of streets in the area were cordoned off throughout yesterday and several police officers guarded the scene.
One resident said: “He (Mr Nicholl) never caused any bother. He was only in the house temporarily while his house was being renovated. A few elderly people on the street have been left very upset that something like this happened out their back doors. It doesn’t bear thinking about that the person who did this is still out there.”
The Mayor of Larne Bobby McKee said the murder has reignited public concern over knife crime.
“Knife culture is something we are all concerned about and this has heightened concern within the community. This is a tragic case where a child has been left without a father,” he said.
Earlier this year the PSNI relaunched a hard-hitting advertising campaign across Northern Ireland in a bid to tackle the scourge of knife crime.
Statistics show that in five years more than 5,000 knife related crimes have been recorded by the PSNI — an average of three a day.