Pizza delivery man shot dead
Police feared ambush by marksmen
Published 24/06/2008 | 07:50
Police are hunting a masked gang which gunned down a 22-year-old pizza delivery man in Londonderry in the early hours of this morning.
The death took place in the Creggan area, said a PSNI spokeswoman. The area around the scene was sealed off while detectives investigated the death.
Local priest Father Stephen McLaughlin branded the killing "disgusting and repulsive".
People in Creggan were today shocked at the return of violence to their streets, and a local councillor said it had thrown the area back in time.
SDLP representative Jim Clifford also said people in the estate thought the murder of the man — who was due to become a father soon — may have been a case of mistaken identity.
Fr McLaughlin was called to the scene at 3am today — hours after the shooting, which is believed to have taken place at around 12.45am.
"Police indicated to me that he was targeted by a gang of people who pursued him and then shot him in a green area in the estate," he said.
"There has been mention of a pizza van and the fact that he may have been called to deliver a pizza to somebody in the estate. This is a young man who was not from Creggan but who we think lived not far from the estate.
"It's as if we have gone back to a place we thought we'd left behind. This is a disgusting and repulsive thing to have happened and the fact that it happened just yards from a school makes it even worse."
Fr McLaughlin also criticised the police response time.
"Local people are somewhat bewildered that police didn't appear until 3:30am or later," he said.
Chief Inspector Chris Yates said he had feared that they might be ambushed when they went to the scene.
"The initial call was that the marksmen were lying in wait in the area.
"Under those circumstances, and with the recent terrorist incident in Fermanagh in which two police officers were nearly killed, we're not going to go rushing blindly into an area until we're satisfied that it's safe to do so."
The man's body was removed from the scene early this morning. A large cordon today still surrounded a green area and steps at the mouth of Bligh's Lane, stretching down to the Rath Mor centre.
The police this morning extended the crime scene to include the grounds of St Mary's church, leaving "a sterile corridor" so that mass goers could get into the chapel.
Dozens of police were this morning examining the scene of the shooting, near several primary and secondary schools.
Politicians were laying the blame for the murder at the door of dissident republicans. However, Chief Inspector Chris Yates said that this was just one line of inquiry into what he called "a cold-blooded murder".
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey said the young man's family, from the Bogside, were extremely upset and convinced the bullet which took their son's life was not meant for him.
He said: "The family is in a state of shock. They are very emotional, very hurt and very angry. One of the family members said that this bullet was meant for somebody else."
Mr Ramsey added: "It is obvious some republican organisation has carried out this attack. They have no mandate for this.
"There are rumours today that this may have been meant for somebody else but a young man has lost his life. There is a gang out of control and it needs to be stood down and needs to be stopped."
Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney also said there were suggestions dissident republicans were to blame and that they had nothing to offer communities.
Mr Clifford today said local people were in a state of shock following the killing.
And he added there were rumours circulating on the estate that the killing may have been a case of mistaken identity.
He said: "This is absolutely terrible. We are all shocked. The local people just can't believe it. It is the last thing anybody wants to see in Creggan."
He added: "We thought those days were all gone — boys running about out of control acting like Wyatt Earp in the Wild West. There are a lot of young children who are going on a holiday project gathering at the school and their parents are just shocked that this sort of thing could happen so close by. It is totally horrific."
Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson said: "This was a criminal act. Anyone who attempts to attach political justification to it is deluding themselves and our community."
The Real IRA recently warned it had a list of targets in the city who could be killed. It also threatened people who help the PSNI.
In a statement, the group, which has also been responsible for the appearance of masked men in a number of city areas recently, warned it had a list of targets who could be executed, and a similar fate could face anyone who helps the police.