A father who was stripped, bound and shot through the head had claimed just weeks before his death that he had been approached by MI5.
It has emerged that in November 2009 Kieran Doherty gave an interview to the Derry Journal newspaper in which he claimed he had been approached by the security service.
The revelation came to light as the hunt for the 31-year-old Brandywell man’s killers continued.
Last night the Real IRA in Derry claimed responsibility for the shooting. In a coded telephone call to a local journalist the dissidents said Mr Doherty had been an RIRA member.
An spokesman for the terror group said: “We executed him because he was involved with a criminal organisation with links to the drugs trade and was profiteering. He knew the risks involved in what he was doing.”
Mr Doherty had been with his fiancee Mairead and daughter, aged two-and-a-half, just two hours before his brutalised body was discovered on Wednesday night.
At a Press conference yesterday, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison — who is now leading the hunt for Mr Doherty’s killers — said the victim had gone to the shop on Wednesday evening but never returned.
The family yesterday asked to be left alone to grieve.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Doherty’s family and girlfriend, Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson said: “Kieran's partner Mairead and his family are traumatised and in deep shock at the sudden and brutal death of Kieran.
“They wish to be left to plan his return and burial in private and in support of each other.”
DCI Harrison, meanwhile, has confirmed that a passer-by discovered Kieran’s body at the side of Braehead Road — about two miles from Mr Doherty’s home — at around 10.10pm and alerted a local priest.
The priest and a colleague administered the Last Rites and led prayers over the body at the scene.
It is understood the deceased was shot twice in the head, and police said they believe he died as a result of the shotgun wounds.
DCI Harrison has refused to be drawn on any possible link between the murder and drugs or dissident republican crime.
Speculation was last night mounting after it emerged that his body was found on the same road as a burnt-out motorcycle used as a getaway following the shooting of a businessman in Derry city centre last month.
A former UDR soldier was found shot dead on the same road almost 38 years ago to the day.
Inspector Harrison said he was not aware if Mr Doherty was under any threat from any organisation but confirmed the victim had been known to police.
He said, however, that he had made contact with Garda detectives in Donegal regarding the murder because of recent criminal activity in and around the area where the body was found.
DCI Harrison said: “Kieran suffered a brutal death and had sustained serious injuries. This was a savage attack for which there is no justification.
“I am aware of speculation as to how and why he met his death but these circumstances aren’t important at the moment. What’s important to me is why Kieran was murdered and who was responsible for doing that.
“I am here to get answers for the family. He was a 31-year-old male who had a long standing partner. He had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and he was going to be married. My officers are currently sitting with his parents and girlfriend and have just passed on the information that their son has been murdered. This is unacceptable.”
DCI Harrison said that whoever had carried out the execution-style murder had neither a mandate nor support.
He added: “They are unrepresentative of the people of Derry, they are not wanted and we have to get them off the backs of the people of Derry.
“They provide nothing to society, they skulk around in the dark and they offer nothing to the people of this city.”
Mr Doherty’s body remained at the scene yesterday afternoon as forensic teams continued to carry out their examinations. The results of a post-mortem are expected within the next few days.
Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan has branded the killing a “Provo-style execution” after visiting the
scene. The Catholic Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty said Mr Doherty’s murder “flies in the face of the teaching of Christ and is a profound rejection of all that is Christian”.
In a hard-hitting message, Rev Hegarty added: “Irrespective of excuses proposed by those who kill, a murder is always wrong. Our society has a tragic history of violence.
“Due to this history, we, more than many other societies, should appreciate that any attempt to drag us back to a bloody past is wrong.”