Belfast Telegraph

Botanic Avenue murder: Two knives found where 'Pakistani man' was killed in Belfast's university area

Alasdair McDonnell said he understood the man died as a result of 'severe stab wounds'

A murder probe has been launched after the body of man, believed to be from Pakistan, was found in the university area of Belfast.

A man from Africa has been arrested in connection with the incident and is currently in custody. The body was discovered in the Botanic Avenue area shortly after 5am.

Police have said two knives were found at the scene. A flat in India Street is now being investigated. A post-mortem is due to be carried out.

The usually busy road has been closed off as detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Serious Crime Branch investigate.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell from PSNI Serious Crime Branch said: “Shortly after five o’clock this morning police received a telephone call from a member of the public that a man was lying on the road in Botanic Avenue with a number of injuries.

“A short time later a man in his 30s was arrested by police in the immediate area. He has been taken into custody and will be interviewed later today.

“Both men are foreign nationals. The suspect is believed to be of African descent. The victim’s nationality is still being confirmed. However, initial enquiries suggest he may be a Pakistani national.

“The victim had been stabbed a number of times and he died at the scene as a result of his injuries. We are following a number of lines of enquiry but we are keeping an open mind about a possible motive.

“We have recovered two knives from the scene. These are currently being examined as part of the investigation. A second scene has been established in a flat at 18 India Street, a short distance from where the victim was found."

Appeal for witnesses

The detective 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.

“We have set up an Incident Room here at Musgrave Station and detectives can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101. Alternatively, people can speak anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

SDLP South Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell said police do not believe there is any sustained threat to members of ethnic minority communities in the area.

Dr McDonnell said: "I was deeply shocked to learn of the murder of a man in the Botanic area of Belfast this morning. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the man’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Police do not believe there is any sustained threat to members of ethnic minority communities in the area. Botanic and communities across south Belfast are richly diverse and we are all the better for it.

“This was a violent and vicious attack in an area that is home to families and students. It’s my understanding that the victim was subjected to a sustained attack early this morning and died as a result of severe stab wounds.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family and friends as they learn of the tragic loss of a loved one. This is a close knit community and I know that they will rally around them in the days and weeks ahead.”

Botanic Avenue sits between the university area and the city centre and has many coffee shops, eateries and bars.

But it was almost deserted today as police sealed off the area to enable forensic investigators to examine the murder scene, which was at the corner of Cameron Street.

Translink have said that all services are operating normally  but trains will be running through Botanic but won't stop there.

A spokeswoman for Translink said they would update passengers via their Twitter account and the Translink website when the station had re-opened.

SDLP councillor for south Belfast Declan Boyle expressed his shock at the news of the murder.

Mr Boyle said: “It is shocking and distressing to hear that the body of a man has been found on Botanic Avenue and that the PSNI are treating it as a murder. I know that residents, workers and business owners in the area will be disturbed and saddened by this news.

“There is major disruption in the area as the police carry out their inquiries as roads have been closed off.”

“I would urge anyone with any information to contact the PSNI.”

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo expressed her sympathies to the family of the victim.

The Alliance MLA said: “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.

“If anybody has any information which may be of help to the Police in their investigation, then I would urge them to contact the PSNI or Crimestoppers.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Deirdre Hargey encouraged anyone with information to bring it to the police.

She said: "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.

"I would encourage anyone who may have information which may assist the police to bring it forward."

Superintendent Paula Hilman, from Belfast City Policing District, said: “We recognise the impact this murder has had on local residents and local businesses.

"We thank them for their co-operation while we are holding the scene of the incident. We are doing so to ensure that all available evidence is recovered. We will re-open the road as soon as possible. I would appeal to anyone with information to come forward to detectives.”

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