Two juveniles were being questioned by police last night after the death of a security guard at a shopping centre on the outskirts of north Belfast.
The man collapsed just yards from hundreds of Sunday shoppers in the Abbeycentre shopping mall on the outskirts of Belfast while trying to detain the youths who were thought to have stolen two cans of soft drinks.
Employees at the shopping centre said they believed the man may have died from a heart attack.
The tragic incident occurred at around 2pm yesterday and police said that two youths are helping them with their inquiries.
Trading continued as normal throughout the day at the shopping centre. An area around the toilets was cordoned off yesterday afternoon — the only obvious sign of the tragedy which had occurred there just hours earlier.
A number of shocked employees stood nearby talking to police officers as they awaited the arrival of forensic officers.
Members of security at the centre, who were visibly upset by the loss of the 57-year-old colleague, declined to comment on what had happened.
However, a shop employee, who did not want to be named, said: “Apparently he was trying to stop a couple of young shoplifters when he had a heart attack. His son, who works here as well, was there at the time so I suppose that is a blessing.
“I really can’t believe this has happened.”
“Apparently the boys he was trying to stop had stolen two cans of Red Bull. It just seems so wrong.”
Her colleague added: “It’s scary. You go out to work in the morning and you don’t know if you are going to come home.
“I didn’t know him very well, just to say hello to when he was walking up and down the centre but he had been working here for quite a while and seemed friendly enough.”
Another woman, who works in a shop just yards from the scene of the incident, said she was stunned by the death.
“It really is terrible. We’re hearing lots of rumours about what happened. First of all we heard that one of the security guards had died and then we heard that he was still alive but then a friend of mine who works in another shop came in and said that he is definitely dead,” she explained.
As usual on a Sunday, the Abbeycentre was packed with shoppers who went about their business only yards from where the incident had occurred. Some stood by watching as the police tape was placed around the toilets.
Betty Smith from Newtownabbey said: “I’ve been told that one of the security guards has died. It’s terrible to think this happened a few hours ago and look at all these people walking by as if nothing happened.
“When you know someone who dies you always feel like your world has ended and everything is going on as normal. I feel so sorry for his poor family, whoever they are.”