Stephen Carson murder: Gunman shot father in front of terrified nine-year-old son
Police investigate criminal feud linked to 2013 pizza delivery driver killing
Stephen Carson was murdered in front of his terrified son in what police believe was a criminal feud.
Stephen Carson, his partner and his nine-year-old son were in the Walmer Street house off the Ormeau Road enjoying a takeaway meal when three men forced their way in on Thursday night.
One was armed with a shotgun, the others with hammers.
There was a confrontation before Stephen fled for his life into the downstairs bathroom, shutting the door behind him
However, the gunman fired through the door hitting Mr Carson in the head.
The 28-year-old was taken to hospital but died as a result of his injuries.
His 26-year-old partner and his young son were left in the house as the killers made their escape on foot in the direction of Haywood Avenue. A fourth man may have waited outside, police believe.
The woman and boy were not physically injured, but left severely traumatised, police added.
The gang was seen heading off into the Haywood Avenue area.
There had been rumours dissident republicans were behind the shooting.
However, police said the killing may be part of a criminal feud and are considering it may be linked to the March 2013 murder of Kieran McManus.
The incident was reported to police just before 10.45pm on Thursday and police have carried out a number of house raids in the area in relation to the attack.
Mr Carson was released from prison last year and it has been reported that he was under death threat.
Police said he was attempting to begin a new life in south Belfast and had only recently moved to the home.
At a press conference on Friday, police described the murder as "cold blooded and brutal".
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes from Serious Crime Branch, said: “Our main line of enquiry, but not our only line of enquiry, is that Stephen was shot as part of a criminal feud. We do not believe at this stage there was any paramilitary involvement nor do we believe this was sectarian.
“I have a number of appeals. I want to hear from:
- Anyone who was in the area of Walmer street and Kimberly Street around 10:45pm last night.
- Anyone who saw three or four men in that area around that time.
- Anyone who saw any suspicious or strange behaviour at or near 77 Walmer Street yesterday.
- Anyone who saw a silver taxi, possibly a Mercedes, which was in Walmer Street at the time of the incident around 10:45pm.
Detective Superintendent Geddes added: “This was a cold-blooded and brutal murder. These are not convenient labels to describe what happened last night. They are an honest opinion about the horrific events which took place in 77 Walmer Street. It is vital that Stephen Carson’s killers are caught and brought before the courts.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives at Ladas Drive on the non-emergency number 101. Alternatively, anyone who does not want to provide their details can phone the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the murder describing it as a "terrible tragedy".
He passed on his sympathies to the victim's family and urged anyone with information to pass it on to police.
One resident told the BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show: "It's quite an upmarket street now. A lot of people are in apartments and work in the town. It's changed, it had its moments years ago but it's been quiet a long time."
DUP councillor Christopher Stalford said: "This is coming completely out of the blue and people are obviously shocked that such a thing can happen in the community in which they live.
"Walmer Street hasn't experienced anything like this in a good many years.
"It's unbelievable that in this day and age we should be hearing stories like this. We just don't know who is responsible for this... I urge anyone who knows the identity of the assailant to come forward and to share that information with the police.
"Someone that's capable of doing something like this is capable of doing it more than once and it's important that we pull together as a community to take this sort of person out of circulation."
Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough Brown said: "Clearly it's a very distressing piece of news to wake up to this morning.
"I understand that several people forced entry into the property and the person was taken away from the scene to hospital, where they later died from their injuries."
Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey said: "The shooting dead of a young man in a house in Walmer Street last night was wrong and I condemn it utterly.
"There is widespread shock in the area this morning as people hear of this killing.
"I would call on anyone with information on this shooting to bring it forward to the PSNI so that those responsible can be caught and taken off the streets."
Detectives have launched a murder investigation and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell is appealing for anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area, or who knows anything about this incident, to contact detectives at Musgrave Police Station on the non-emergency number 101.
Or if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.