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Belfast knife murder: Police probe reports killer was shouting pro-Islamic slogans

Mohsin Bhatti (29) from Pakistan died on Botanic Avenue at around 5am on Thursday

By Chris Kilpatrick

Published 30/01/2015

(Left) Victim Mohsin Bhatti (Right) Forensics at the scene of the Botanic Avenue murder
(Left) Victim Mohsin Bhatti (Right) Forensics at the scene of the Botanic Avenue murder
Victim Mohsin Bhatti
A tent covers the victim’s body
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell and Superintendent Paula Hilman speak to the media yesterday

Detectives are investigating reports a man shouted pro-Islamic slogans as he stabbed another to death in Botanic Avenue in Belfast.

Mohsin Bhatti (29) from Pakistan, died on the busy road at around 5am yesterday.

Mr Bhatti lived in India Street, Belfast.

Terrified witnesses called police who arrived at the scene and arrested a suspect minutes later.

Two knives were found in the street.

A 32-year-old Somalian man was arrested yesterday as part of the investigation into the murder.

On Friday police said he had been transferred from police custody to a secure medical facility in greater Belfast.

He is being detained there under the Mental Health Order.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell, from Serious Crime Branch, said: “Mohsin Bhatti's relatives have been informed of the tragedy and we are liaising with them.

“Our enquiries are continuing and we are releasing a photo of Mohsin as part of the investigation. I want to hear from anyone who saw or spoke with Mohsin during Wednesday or in the early hours of Thursday morning before he was stabbed."

Botanic Avenue and a number of surrounding streets remained closed throughout the day until around 6pm, with train services at Botanic Station cancelled.

The victim's home in nearby India Street was also sealed off as police carried out forensic investigations.

One line of inquiry is that both the victim and his killer may have been in the property before the attack.

The police officer heading up the investigation said efforts were being made to establish a motive for the attack.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said the investigation was at a very early stage and he had an "open mind".

"The victim had been stabbed a number of times and he died at the scene as a result of his injuries."

On reports of pro-Islamic slogans being shouted by the attacker, Mr Campbell said: "Comments made by the suspect at the scene will form part of the investigation."

Mr Campbell said a flat in India Street had also been cordoned off.

"It appears there has been some sort of altercation, possibly in that flat, which has then spilled out onto the street and ended up with the murder on Botanic Avenue," he said.

The suspect sustained minor injuries. Police said they were not treating the murder as a hate crime.

They declined to comment on reports a machete had been used or the number of times the victim had been stabbed.

Mr Campbell added: "Even though it was just after 5am this morning, there were a number of people and vehicles in the Botanic Avenue area.

"We have spoken to a number of people who have been able to assist us but I would appeal to anyone who was in the area this morning and who saw or heard anything to contact police. Similarly, I would like to hear from anyone who thinks they might know either the suspect or the victim."

Alliance Assembly Member for the area Anna Lo expressed her sympathies to the family of the murdered man.

"I would condemn whoever is responsible for this man's death in the strongest possible manner.

"Local people are shocked at what has taken place. Botanic Avenue is a very popular area visited by many people who will be very saddened by this incident. My thoughts and sympathies go out to the family and friends of the victim. This will undoubtedly be a very difficult time for them."

Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey also expressed her shock and called on anyone with information to come forward: "While the circumstances of the man's death are unclear at this time, the PSNI have stated that they are treating the death as murder."

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