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Court told of shop owner’s desperate bid to dodge killer

The son of murdered chip shop owner Alfredo Fusco heard yesterday how his father attempted to barricade himself in a storeroom during a sectarian gun attack 37 years ago.

Mario Fusco was 14 years old at the time. His father Alfredo was 55 when he was shot three times in the York Road chippie by a loyalist gunman on February 3, 1973.

Denying his murder is Robert James Clarke, a convicted killer who claims he can't shoot a gun since he lost two fingers in an industrial accident years earlier.

However, Belfast Crown Court has already heard that despite his claims that he couldn't be a triggerman, Clarke (58), from Dundrod Road, Nutts Corner, was convicted of the murder of Margaret O'Neill in the New Lodge Road in 1975.

Yesterday Mario Fusco revealed that three months prior to his father's murder the family were forced to move from their home above the cafe after several sectarian attacks on the premises when windows were broken.

He told Diplock Trial judge Mr Justice McLaughlin that, although his father had operated the chippie from the late 1940s, his “parents decided it was not safe to live there anymore”.

Later Mr Fusco sat in the back of the court in the public gallery and listened as retired chief inspector Alan McCrum told of finding his father's body, slumped behind the storeroom door at the back of the chippie.

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The retired RUC scenes of crime officer said he found two 9mm live rounds outside the door, and noticed a bullet hole and a further strike mark on the door caused by a .45 round.

Reading from a report made at the time, Mr McCrum said he thought Mr Fusco had been “against this door in an effort to keep it closed and was probably in a crouched position so not to be seen through the glass panel in the upper half of the door”.

“In my opinion,” he read, of the two shots fired through the door, one “struck Mr Fusco in the head and passed through the skull and landed on the floor.

“Possibly after this the assassin forced the door sufficiently open to fire a shot into Mr Fusco's back as he lay prostrate on the floor.”

The trial has already heard that Clarke was arrested last year when finger and palm prints found on the storeroom door were identified as his, after a review of the case by the police Historical Enquiries Team.

Following his arrest in August last year Clarke said he worked as a door hanger at the time but accepted he had not worked in north Belfast or the York Road area.

Mr Kerr said that while Clarke could not explain how his prints got on the door, he maintained “he had not shot Mr Fusco”.

At hearing.

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