Firefighters disturb Belfast crime scene to free cat trapped in house
The scene of a shooting in west Belfast was disturbed after firefighters broke into the house to rescue a cat, sparking concerns vital evidence may have been lost.
Detectives discovered on Monday that a crime scene at a house on Rossnareen Avenue had been open for almost a week.
They had returned to the area to follow up their inquiries into the attempted murder of Martin Gavin, a member of the Travelling community, who was shot in the head as he sat in a car outside his house last month.
Officers had been guarding the house to preserve potential evidence but were forced to scale back their presence after dissident republicans opened fire on their patrol car.
When forensic scientists and detectives arrived at the vacant property on Monday in a bid to further their investigations, they discovered that the scene had been disturbed by a break-in. It later emerged that the Fire and Rescue Service had broken into the house six days earlier to rescue a cat trapped inside.
A police source said: "Detectives arrived out with a forensic scientist to assess the house. When they arrived, it had been broken into. It turned out the Fire Service went into it last week to let out a kitten, and the entire thing has been compromised. It had been sitting open since last Tuesday."
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said he feared evidence may have been lost.
"This is very concerning," he added. "I think the Fire Service has to be asked why they went into a crime scene and why the PSNI was not notified. I just hope that vital evidence has not been lost. It is difficult to see how this scene has not been compromised."
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Reid added: "The investigation into the brutal shooting of a man in his 40s at Rossnareen Avenue is ongoing.
"The scene at the house has been held since Thursday, November 19, whilst forensic and various other enquiries have been carried out. Fire Service personnel entered the property last week, however, the property remains a crime scene and will continue to be examined as part of the investigation."
Mr Gavin was shot in the back of the head as he sat in the car outside his house last month. His partner was in the driver's seat at the time and immediately sped off in the car in a bid to escape.
She stopped the vehicle a short distance away on Shaw's Road, close to a primary school, where a school patrol man is understood to have contacted the emergency services. Mr Gavin was left in a critical condition in hospital following the attempted murder.
A week later, as a police patrol guarded the scene, a gunman opened fire on their car.
A number of shots struck the passenger side of the car. Two officers who were in the vehicle were not injured but were said to have been badly shaken.
After the attack on officers, police withdrew their permanent presence outside the crime scene.