Paul McCready 'was my rock, my best friend', says partner of Belfast murder victim
The partner of murder victim Paul McCready has paid a heartfelt tribute to her "rock" and "best friend in the whole world".
Mr McCready's partner of more than a decade, Ruth Patterson, also said their sons were "broken" and she wanted to "wake up now from this nightmare".
Police say that the 31-year-old, who has two children aged under 10, sustained injuries in an altercation inside the Northern Whig pub in Belfast city centre at around 12.50am on Sunday.
It spilled on to the street and it is understood that Mr McCready, from north Belfast, hit his head on the pavement.
He passed away in hospital in the early hours of Sunday.
A 30-year-old man was arrested at the scene and remains in custody.
In a Facebook message, Ms Patterson wrote: "My best friend in the whole world for the last 11 years.
"I don't know what I'll do without you Paul - never did I think this would be me and our boys life!
"We had so many amazing times together, the four of us - you made sure of that - and so many plans for the future.
"I just want to wake up now from this nightmare.
"Your poor boys are broken - they idolised you and you them! Please give them strength. My life will never be the same again I know that for certain. You were my rock who I could tell everything to."
The football community has also paid tribute to the father-of-two.
Mr McCready was a former captain of the reserves side, Cliftonville Olympic. Cliftonville FC posted a message on social media saying its members were "shocked and saddened" to learn of his death.
The club added: "Everyone at Solitude extends sincere sympathy to the McCready family circle at this difficult time."
Former Cliftonville Olympic manager, Michael Press, who knew Mr McCready when he captained the side as a 20-year-old, described him as a "very popular, well-respected lad who people looked up to".
"Paul played on the reserve team for two to three years, and he also played half a dozen first team matches," recalled Michael, who is now the assistant manager of Larne FC. "He was a really nice lad, determined to do well, and Eddie Patterson who managed the first team at the time saw the talent he had.
"He was really popular among the lads, he was a leader - quiet but respected. He didn't have to be vocal in his approach - he was a real nice guy. He had no airs or graces."
Mr Press said he was "gutted" to hear of Mr McCready's death.
"It's such a shock for someone of his age, he should have had so many years ahead of him," he continued.
"I was manager of Cliftonville Olympic for 12 years and he was one of the nicest guys I came across - a real genuine person. I would like to pass on my condolences to his family."
At a press conference yesterday, the PSNI appealed for information on Mr McCready's murder and warned that "one punch can kill".
However, Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes did not confirm that Mr McCready had died due to a "one punch attack", saying that it was "too early to say for certain" how long the attack had lasted beforehand.
He stated: "Paul is a young dad. He has two young children - two children under 10 - and tragically they have now been left today with a long life ahead of them with no dad.
"We would just like to remind people that yes, it's fine to go and have a nice night out, but as we see here an altercation can very, very quickly lead to someone losing their life.
"And we have seen in the past that one punch can in fact kill someone.
"So we'd just like to remind people when they are on a night out to stay safe and be careful."
Mr Geddes said that it was "early in the investigation to say what exactly happened" to Mr McCready, but confirmed that there appeared to have been an altercation with another man inside the pub which continued onto the street outside.
He said that CCTV showed a number of witnesses to the incident and appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of Waring Street, Donegall Street, or who was in the Northern Whig bar to come forward to assist police. He said that the PSNI were "very grateful" that a number of people had already come forward to assist police.
"I would also like to ask for anybody who may have taken video footage or photographs at that time to get in touch with detectives," he stated.
"It was a fight, that's why we want witnesses.
"A number of videos have already been made available to us, so yes I think there were people with their cellphones who may have been recording what was going on.
"That's very important for us so we can see exactly what happened."