Former IRA leader Gerard 'Jock' Davison shot dead in south Belfast
PSNI: This was a cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight in a residential area and it has no place in the new Northern Ireland.
A former IRA leader has been shot dead in south Belfast.
Gerard 'Jock' Davison was shot a number of times on Tuesday morning in the Markets area at 9.15am.
Children were reportedly running across the road screaming "daddy, daddy".
It is understood the victim, a 47-year-old father of three, was making his way to a community centre from which he worked when he was attacked.
A large cordon was put up around the scene and a police forensic tent erected over the victim's body.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway it was a "cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight".
He said: "Gerard Davison was known to everyone as Jock. He was 47, a father, grandfather, brother and son. He was a high profile community worker in the area in recent years and a prominent member of the Markets Development Association. In fact, Mr Davison was walking to a local community centre where he worked when he was shot.
"This was a cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight in a residential area and it has no place in the new Northern Ireland.
"We have detectives in the Markets area making house to house enquiries and seeking to identify witnesses. I would appeal to local people to co-operate with them and give them any information they have. The murder has been condemned by local politicians and I am grateful for their appeals for people to co-operate with police.
"I am appealing for information from anyone who saw the shooting or what happened immediately afterwards in Welsh Street at 9am this morning.
"We have set up an Incident Room at Musgrave police station. I would appeal to anyone with information to contact us on the non-emergency number 101 or, if they don’t want to give their details, by using the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Most people were reluctant to speak about the shooting but have expressed shock.
Scores of people gathered as forensic officers continue their examination of the scene.
Witnesses said the victim was walking along the street when a gunman walked up to him and shot him at point blank range.
He was just yards away from his partner's home.
Throughout the morning scores of people have descended on the scene including well known members within the republican movement with Sinn Fein members.
The ex-IRA man was working as a community worker in the Markets district.
He was part of the Markets Development Association, in a statement the committee and staff said it was a "callous attack not only on Gerard but on the community as a whole".
It said: "The Committee and staff of the Markets Development Association strongly condemn the cowardly murder by criminal elements of our colleague Gerard Davison who worked so tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for the people of the Market community.
"This was a callous attack, not only on Gerard, but indeed, on the community as a whole.
"The Markets Development Association would like to extend its deepest sympathies to the family of Gerard and extend our heartfelt gratitude for the hard work, commitment and time which Gerard dedicated to the community and its people. His loss will be keenly felt."
He was reportedly a senior member of PIRA in the city before becoming a supporter of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy.
Davison came from a family aligned to the republican movement during the Troubles.
His uncle Brendan 'Ruby' Davison was shot dead by the UVF close to the scene of Tuesday's killing in 1988.
Davison was quizzed about the murder of 33-year-old Robert McCartney outside Magennis's Bar in Belfast city-centre in January 2005, but was later released without charge.
The McCartneys led an international campaign after the 2005 murder.
Robert McCartney (33) was killed after trying to help his friend, Brendan Devine, who had become involved in a row in Magennis’s.
Three men were charged in connection with the killing: Terry Davison with murder, and Jim McCormick and Joe Fitzpatrick with causing an affray. But they were all acquitted in 2008.
No-one has been convicted for the murder of Mr McCartney a father-of-two from the Short Strand,
The victim's sister made the claim that Davison ordered the murder.
In a 2007 interview with Sunday Life, Gerard 'Jock' Davison claimed "I'm no tout" after the murder-victim's sister, Catherine, posed the question in her new book, Walls of Silence.
Davison said at the time: "I never, ever gave any information on my comrades or my friends during my 25 years in the republican movement. Any republican who knows me knows this.
"There is not one shred of truth in this suggestion that I was an agent. It would take Al Hutchinson or Jane Winters from BIRW just five minutes to establish this fact.
"I challenge the McCartneys to make a complaint immediately and I will co-operate fully with any investigation."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD condemned the murder and extended his condolences to the family of the murdered man.
Mr Adams said: “People will be appalled by this morning’s murder in the Markets area of south Belfast.
“This brutal act will be condemned by all sensible people. There can be no place today for such actions.
“I would urge anyone with any information to bring that forward to the PSNI.”
David Ford, justice minister in the devolved power-sharing assembly at Stormont, condemned the killing of the community worker on the eve of the General Election.
"There can be no excuse, explanation or rational reason why another family should be made to suffer through the taking of a life. Those who carried out this heinous crime have no place in our community."
SDLP south Belfast Westminster candidate Dr Alasdair McDonnell said it was a "horrendous crime".
He said: “This is a horrendous crime and those responsible have shown no regard for anyone that could have been caught in the middle of it during the school rush hour. Witnesses have described how the man was shot in the street.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the individual’s family at this traumatic time.
“People here want to move on from the violence of the past. This community will reject those who bring murder and mayhem to our streets. I would appeal to anyone with any information to bring it forward as soon as possible.”
Alliance South Belfast Councillor Paula Bradshaw said the people in the area were in shock.
She said: "It has shocked many people in the area.
"Guns have no place on our streets. Those responsible for this vicious crime are a danger to our society and must be urgently apprehended by the Police.
“My thoughts are with the family and friends of this man. This must be a very distressing time for them.
“Whoever carried out this murder must be taken off our streets and brought before the courts to face justice for their horrific crimes.
The Police will need the help of the public to catch those responsible, so I would urge anybody with any information to contact the PSNI or Crimestoppers.”
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the victim was "well-known" for his work in the community sector.
Mr Ó Muilleoir said: "There is shock in the local area that this man has been shot dead in such a callous fashion in broad daylight while on his way to work.
"The victim is from the area and well-known for his work in the community sector.
“Local people are shocked and angered by what has happened and I would appeal to people to remain calm.
"I unreservedly condemn his brutal killing and I call on the PSNI to bring his killers to justice.
"Anyone with any information on this killing should bring it forward immediately to the PSNI.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey appealed for anyone with information to contact the police.
The south Belfast representative said: “I unreservedly condemn this morning’s murder of a man in the Markets area of central Belfast.
“The people of this city had hoped that we had left such days behind us. There is no excuse whatsoever for this murder and I would appeal to anyone with information to contact the Police immediately.”