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Gerard 'Jock' Davison murder: Residents' shock as gunfire returns to Belfast's streets

By John Porter

Published 06/05/2015

Shocked residents gather in the rain at the scene of the murder of top republican Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in Belfast yesterday
Shocked residents gather in the rain at the scene of the murder of top republican Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in Belfast yesterday

Gunshots and screams of "daddy" pierced an overcast Tuesday morning in the Markets area.

Gerard 'Jock' Davison was walking the short distance from his home to the Markets Community Centre when he was shot at least once in the head.

People rushed to the spot on the junction of Welsh Street and Stanfield Street where Davison fell.

One man spoke of feeling a faint pulse in his arm before paramedics took over.

The former IRA commander died at the scene.

A quiet hush descended over the tight-knit republican enclave as forensic experts carried out their grim task of documenting the scene and collecting evidence before the constant downpour washed it away.

Scores of people stood in their doorways or huddled in anorak-clad groups. umbrellas raised, quietly chatting among themselves.

A yellow and white tent - too small to completely cover the body, with a boot of the deceased poking out from underneath - was the focus of their attention.

At one stage distraught family members broke the silence as they raced forward to get to the body, only for them to be held back by relatives, friends and police officers.

Well-known figures in the republican movement also descended on the area. Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey stood beside South Belfast election candidate Mairtin O Muilleoir. He gave an impromptu Press conference at the opposite end of the street to the murder scene.

Describing the shooting as a "brutal killing", he said the community had been "robbed of a valuable and tireless worker and a much-loved family member".

Davison had worked at the Markets Development Association for the past eight years and was said to be heavily involved with the area's regeneration efforts long before that.

In the community centre where he worked - the place where he was headed when he was gunned down - staff said Davison had been spearheading a major project aimed at reopening closed-off tunnels under bridges in the area in the hope of bringing in new business and community-based projects.

The sense of shock at the community centre was palpable. Members described Davison as a "tireless" individual who worked to "enhance the quality of life for the people of the Markets community".

A spokesman for the centre condemned the killing as "cowardly" and as an attack on the entire community. Extending sympathy to the family and their gratitude for the victim's hard work, the spokesman added: "His loss will be keenly felt."

Residents spoke of their shock and revulsion over the daylight assassination in their midst.

"He was very well known in the area," said one man. "This was totally out of the blue, nobody would have expected this. It's shocking."

One woman recalled the day Davison's uncle Brendan was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries on his doorstep in nearby Friendly Street.

She added: "The binmen were working in the area today and I think people thought the noise was something to do with them at first. They didn't expect it to be gunfire."

She added: "You think those days are long gone and then this happens to remind you. Are we ever going to get peace?"

As the morning progressed and the crowds who had gathered slowly dispersed, conversations moved from shock and disbelief to focus on one question: who did it?

The police could say who it was not, but not who it was.

"Many people in Northern Ireland have a past," said the police's lead investigator, Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway. "But there can be no justification for this brutal murder."

Read more:

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Gerard 'Jock' Davison: Stuck in the shadow of the Robert McCartney killing, but never far from senior republicans  

Markets murder: Former IRA chief gunned down as a child cried out 'daddy, daddy'  

Well regarded in republicanism... but someone wanted him dead  

Gerard 'Jock' Davison murder: Belfast shooting of ex-IRA man 'not sectarian'  

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