The couple shot dead in their home in Co Armagh may have known their killer, the detective leading the murder hunt has said.
Suspected drug dealer Hugh McGeough (56) and his wife Jacqueline McCartney (44) are believed to have let the gunman or gunmen into their home at Legahory Court in Craigavon at about 11am on Monday morning.
Their bodies were not discovered until seven hours later when their son Martin called to the |two-storey house after becoming concerned his mother was not |responding to telephone calls or text messages.
Martin, who is in his 20s, is understood to have entered the property through a window because all of the doors were locked.
“I have reason to believe that they may have known the person or persons who have murdered them,” Detective Inspector Richard Harkness said yesterday.
“We have yet to follow up on that hypothesis and that will be confirmed through various lines |of inquiry.”
The cold-blooded killings, which have all the hallmarks of a professional assassination, have been linked to a feud between rival drugs gangs.
Both victims sustained fatal head injuries after being hit by at least one gunshot each.
Mr McGeough was found lying in the hallway while his wife was discovered in another room of the heavily fortified house.
Their son contacted police and alerted other family members, including Mrs McCartney’s sister, who lives in a flat directly opposite the murder scene.
“There has been a lot of speculation in the last 12 to 18 hours about these murders and I want to put some facts on the record,” Mr Harkness added. “What I know from my inquiries to date is |that the couple spent the weekend in Letterkenny and returned home around 1.30pm on Sunday afternoon.
“They were visited late on Sunday evening and we believe that they were alive and well up until approximately 11am on Monday, March 11.
“After that time it appears that the couple were not responding to contact and it is my belief as the senior investigating officer that they were murdered at around 11am in their own home.”
Mr McGeough was well known to police and was widely regarded as a prolific drug dealer.
He was jailed for nine years over the 2001 death of Craigavon teenager Peter McNally.
In 2007 a drug dealer with links to loyalist paramilitaries was |accused of threatening to kill him and a number of his associates in a row over weapons.
He was also ordered to leave the area by the IRA.
Mr Harkness said: “Regardless of anyone’s background, no |one deserves to be murdered |in this way.”
The couple lived in a house with bulletproof windows, front and rear CCTV and a reinforced back door. It sits on its own in the middle of the council estate and is |easily accessible.
The area is close to Legahory police station and it is thought CCTV footage from the facility will be viewed as part of the |investigation. It is thought the killer made off on foot.
Detective Harkness said there were “no indications” that dissident republicans had been involved in the double murder.
It is feared there could be reprisals for the deaths, which may spark a drugs war.
Mr Harkness added: “I would ask the community not to become involved in these matters.”
“My team and I will pursue the people who killed Jacqueline and Hugh relentlessly and I would hope to bring this matter to a successful conclusion.
“I will repeat, I can only do that if the community come forward, support me and my team and let us do our job in this area.”
A large police cordon was |erected around the scene.
Police forensic teams carried out searches of the property while uniformed officers conducted a fingertip search of the surrounding area.
Meanwhile in a statement, |the victims’ families described |the two murders as “brutal” and |“inhumane”.
“We are not aware of any motive for the horrendous act,” it said.
“There have been suggestions that this is a drug-related crime, but we refute that, as neither Hugh nor Jacqueline have been prosecuted with regards to drugs.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the CID incident room at Mahon Road PSNI station on 028 38 366 366.
HUGH McGeough was considered the kingpin of Legahory, a powerful drug dealer with a long history of criminality.
Of his most notorious exploits was his involvement in the death of teenager Peter McNally almost a decade ago. The 19-year-old was shot four times by two gunmen in 2001.
McGeough had originally been charged with the killing along with associate Raymond Gerard Heaney, however, both were acquitted after pleading guilty to the lesser charge of wounding with intent.