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Belfast family of Divis murder victim James Hughes 'can't get over it', says community group chairman

By Allan Preston

Published 08/11/2016

A PSNI forensics officer enters Divis Tower yesterday
A PSNI forensics officer enters Divis Tower yesterday
John Leathem from the residents’ committee outside the flats
Tim Attwood

A man arrested after a murder in west Belfast's Divis Tower remained in custody last night.

James Hughes (62), described by friends as a "harmless big guy," was found dead on Sunday evening in his 14th floor flat after the alarm was raised by a member of the public.

Yesterday detectives from Serious Crime Branch confirmed they are treating the death as murder.

A 42-year-old man arrested yesterday remained in custody last night. He is being questioned at Musgrave police station.

John Leathem, chairman of the Divis and Falls residents association, called it a tragedy for two families. "James was a gentleman, he was eccentric in his way, but he wouldn't have done you any harm," he said.

"Whatever happened, one way or the other, he ended up dead."

Mr Leathem was phoned by the murder victim's family on Sunday night. He said that "they can't get over it" and described them as "shocked".

He said other residents in Divis Tower were also stunned by the death. "Two lives are destroyed," he said.

"It's distressing for the two families. One has lost someone who won't come back, one has lost another who will probably get locked away for the rest of his life."

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: "This is a tragic death of a well liked and well loved man. The residents of Divis Tower are deeply shocked by this incident and will do everything they can in support."

On Sunday, the Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann said the death was a tragedy. "Divis Tower is a tight knit community and this will be felt by those who live there," he said. "It is too soon to speculate as to the cause of death, but the PSNI are treating it as suspicious. I would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious to bring that information to the PSNI. Our thoughts and prayers will be with the victim's family and friends at this time."

Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes from Serious Crime Branch appealed for anyone with information about the murder to come forward.

"We are not in a position to confirm a cause of death until a post mortem examination has taken place, but we are following a definite line of enquiry," he said.

"Although we have a suspect in custody and residents in Divis Tower have been very helpful in providing information as part of our enquiries, we are still appealing for assistance."

He asked anyone who was on the 14th, 15th or 16th floors of Divis Tower and heard anything suspicious between the evening of Saturday, November 5 and Sunday evening to contact detectives at Musgrave police station on the non-emergency number 101.

Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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