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Family's agony at death of Conan Anderson as Belfast police begin murder probe

By Lisa Smyth

The family of an east Belfast murder victim have spoken of their devastation at his death almost two weeks after he sustained catastrophic head injuries.

Conan Anderson (22), from Short Strand, was injured on a night out in the early hours of Monday, February 6, and was rushed to hospital later that day when his condition deteriorated.

A 27-year-old man was arrested in north Belfast on February 9 on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm, but was later released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Detectives announced yesterday morning that Mr Anderson had died on Saturday and that they were treating his death as murder.

The young man's heartbroken family have appealed for anyone with information about the events leading up to his death to contact police.

His brother Brendan revealed they had endured "pure and utter hell" over the past fortnight as they watched him fight for his life in hospital.

"He was an innocent thing, big and tall, but like a teddy bear," he said.

"He was a coach in the under sixes football team. He just loved it, that's what he lived for."

Mr Anderson enjoyed a night out at Thompson's Garage in the city centre and returned home in the early hours of Monday, February 6.

His brother said he had gone upstairs that morning and saw Conan lying on the floor of his bedroom.

"I thought he was drunk and he was snoring away, so I left him there," he recalled.

"But that night at about half past seven my mum called me and said he was acting very, very strangely.

"I went over and straight away realised we had to ring an ambulance.

"He had a mark on his jaw like he had been punched, and was very confused.

"He kept lying down and standing up and trying to clap his hands, but he couldn't say a word. It was very frightening.

"When we got him to the hospital we were told he had horrific brain injuries, he had a fractured skull and was bleeding internally.

"He was in a coma after that and we kept talking into his ears, just hoping he would hear us."

Detectives have appealed for help in bringing Mr Anderson's killer to justice.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery said: "I am now treating Conan's death as murder and I am appealing for anyone with any information about the incident at Arthur Lane in the early hours of Monday, February 6, or any information which could be of assistance to my investigation, to contact detectives at Musgrave Street, quoting reference number 1034 08/02/17."

Last week Mr Anderson's sister-in-law Shauna McEvoy described the torture the family was enduring.

Speaking at a vigil for him, she said: "He's changing every minute and he's just deteriorating. It's very difficult.

"He's fighting very hard for his life at the minute, life support is keeping him alive."

She added: "He's very popular. Social media has lit up and everyone wants to help in some way."

After leaving Thompson's at around 3am, Mr Anderson was next seen leaving the city centre at 5.45am wearing a black padded coat.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident a couple in Omagh were left bloodied after they were attacked by up to eight men on a night out in the town on Friday.

Dwayne Bratton and his fiancee Sinead McAleer sustained facial injuries during what has been described as an unprovoked attack.

Posting on Facebook, Mr Bratton's sister Vicky Bratton expressed her disgust at the incident, which took place close to the courthouse in the town.

"They were only two minutes from home," she said.

"This was an unprovoked attack and it breaks my heart to think of my brother lying there and eight men hitting him.

"I'm lucky to still have my brother as they hit him around the head and he was left knocked out, lying on the road.

"Anyone out in Omagh please be careful, and these monsters will even stoop as low as to hit a woman."

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