Christmas murder victim Basil McAfee killed by man who owed him money for drugs
A father-of-two who was hacked and stabbed to death in his north Belfast home last Christmas was killed by a man who owed him money for drugs.
Sunday Life can reveal that Basil McAfee - an alcoholic who was murdered one year ago this weekend - was a small-time drug dealer who sold cannabis to regular customers in the city centre.
Cops believe his killer, who has yet to be caught, came from this group of users and was in debt to the 50-year-old.
Rather than pay Basil the money owed, he walked into the living room of his home on Henderson Avenue, off the Cavehill Road, and attacked him with an axe then a knife.
Before leaving the murderer ransacked the small house, pulling open every drawer and cupboard. He is believed to have escaped with a quantity of cannabis and up to £1,000.
Yesterday, on the first anniversary of Basil's killing, the PSNI's Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, re-issued an appeal for information.
Later, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Life, the top cop admitted a drugs link forms an important part of the investigation.
Det Chief Insp McVea said: "I can confirm that drugs form a significant line of inquiry in this investigation."
Basil - who was originally from the Ardoyne area - was killed late in the evening of December 19 last year. Police have spoken to a drug user, who is not a suspect, who called to the murder victim's home around 8pm.
He bought cannabis from Basil, who told him that he was expecting another visitor later that evening, but did not name him.
The PSNI now want to speak to this individual.
DCI McVea added: "We can confirm that a number of people called to Basil's home who are not suspects.
"But there are indications he was expecting another individual to call around 9pm.
"That individual has yet to make themselves known to us and we would appeal for them or anyone who knows them to contact us so we can rule them out of our inquiries."
DCI McVea also admitted that Basil's murderer took drugs and money from his north Belfast home.
He said: "We can confirm a quantity of drugs and money were stolen. We believe Basil was owed money by an individual and we would appeal for him to come forward."
Basil's lifeless body was found the next morning by his 69-year-old mum Anne McAfee.
Police sources said the murder scene which she stumbled across was the "worst they had ever encountered".
Oddly, Basil's body was discovered sitting on a sofa with his legs outstretched and crossed.
This would indicate that he was comfortable in the presence of his killer, or that he was caught unawares and the murderer bust through the unlocked front door.
In her only media interview, Basil's heartbroken mum Anne told Sunday Life last year: "When I opened the door I saw Basil and the first thing I noticed was that his head was bashed in.
"First of all I hugged him, and I kissed him, felt him, stroked his back. I had the phone in my hand and I was doing that while I phoned the emergency services."
A tearful Anne added: "I asked for the police and ambulance because I knew he had been murdered."
Police have also refused to rule out more than one killer being involved in Basil's murder.
This is because two weapons were used, a knife and axe, and that it is unusual for a single murderer to use two in a fatal attack of this nature.
On the day of his death last year Basil, a creature of habit, caught a bus into the city centre around midday.
He spent the afternoon, like he normally did, drinking in city centre bars and meeting his regular customers to whom he sold cannabis.
Basil caught a bus home around 3.30pm, stopping off in a nearby off-licence to buy his usual daily carry-out - a quarter bottle of whiskey and couple of cans of beer.
The purchase, including cigarettes came to £19.64p - the same amount of money Basil spent in the store every day.
It was while leaving the off-licence that he was pictured for the last time on its CCTV system.
Basil walked the short distance to his home on Henderson Avenue and spent the evening drinking and smoking cannabis.
He was murdered sitting on his sofa after 9pm with a glass of whiskey, which can be seen here in our exclusive crime scene photographs, at his side next to a pool of blood.
Moments before his death Basil had been in the kitchen preparing soup on the hob.
Images taken by forensic officers, reprinted in Sunday Life today, show the opened cupboards that had been ransacked by his killer.
Police sources are convinced that Basil knew the man who murdered him through the drugs scene.
One insider said: "This was not a random attack, it was someone who knew Basil through the drugs scene.
"We have not uncovered anyone who fell out with Basil prior to his murder.
"We have also spoken to his drugs supplier, who has co-operated with police and is not a suspect."
At the time of Basil's death rumours emerged that he had been killed by an eastern European - but cops has ruled this out totally.
Our source added: "Basil's best friend was from Poland, that is how this speculation began.
"But this fella is completely innocent, he had nothing to do with the murder."
Police have also dismissed reports that Basil's killer many have been involved in the death of Eamonn Ferguson, who was stabbed and beaten to death in north Belfast three months later.
Both men were from Ardoyne and died in equally horrific circumstances.
Our security source said: "Although the killings were similar we are certain the same people were not involved."
Anyone with information on the murder of Basil McAfee can contact detectives on the non-emergency number 101 or ring the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Belfast Telegraph Digital