Belfast Telegraph

East Belfast murder victim a relative of Glentoran legend

Family is left devastated after man (21) found dead in east Belfast stabbing

Reece Leeman was killed in the Kyle Street area of the Sydenham estate
Reece Leeman was killed in the Kyle Street area of the Sydenham estate
Paul Leeman
Tommy Leeman
A forensic officer investigates outside a house in Kyle Street
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The family of a young east Belfast man found murdered in the early hours of yesterday morning are said to be going through “unimaginable grief”.

The victim, named locally as Reece Leeman (21), was killed in the Kyle Street area of the Sydenham estate.

While the background to the incident remains unclear, it is believed that Mr Leeman was stabbed after an “altercation” in the area. Two men have been arrested. The suspects remained in custody yesterday for questioning.

One shocked neighbour, who was first on the scene, said she woke up to the sound of men screaming and shouting.

The streets around the murder scene were sealed off as a major forensic investigation got underway at an end-of-terrace house on the street.

Mr Leeman is survived by his parents Matthew and Gail and sister Melissa.

The young man is related to Glentoran legend Paul Leeman and also Tommy Leeman, who played for the Glens and Rangers in the 1980s.

He was a past pupil of Ashfield Boys’ High School and Belfast Metropolitan College.

Messages of sympathy have flooded in for the Leeman family following the murder.

A source close to the family said they were going through “unimaginable grief”.

Paul Maghie, Mr Leeman’s friend since childhood, told the Belfast Telegraph that he was “completely shattered” by the loss of Reece, known as ‘Leeper’ to his friends, who he called his “brother for life”.

He added: “Reece was an absolute gentleman and my best mate, who has been taken from us all.

“On behalf of all the lads I send condolences to Reece’s family. This has broke us all in half.”

Another close friend, Ryan Ball, added: “Reece was one of my best mates, an absolute gentleman who never failed to put a smile on your face every time you seen him.

“He was well liked and respected in the community and will be deeply missed by his friends and family.”

Officers and members of the Blues and Royals Flute Band in Sydenham, where Mr Leeman was a former member, said that they were “absolutely devastated” to hear of his death.

“Reece was a wonderful young man and a great member to our band. Sleep tight good friend, taken too soon,” the band posted on social media.  

He was also remembered by colleagues at Sirocco Works FC, where he was a former player.

“Everyone at Sirocco would like to pass on our deepest sympathy to the Leeman family on the loss of their son Reece.

“Reece was a former player at Sirocco and was fondly thought of by the management and players at the club. Thoughts and prayers are with you all at this sad time,” a spokesperson said.

Mr Leeman is the third person to be murdered in the greater east Belfast area this year and the second this week.

The body of grandmother Alice Morrow (53) was discovered in her flat at Whincroft Way on the Braniel estate last Sunday, while community worker Ian Ogle (45), was stabbed 11 times in the back in Cluan Place on January 27.

East Belfast DUP councillor George Dorrian said that the level of violence in Belfast this year has been “unbelievable”.

“It’s worrying, you’re seeing a level of violence that’s just shocking,” he said.

Councillor Dorrian said that the DUP would be liaising with the police about domestic violence and knife crime following a number of recent incidents.

“One of the things we’d be looking to do is to meet with the police to find out what practical steps can be taken to challenge this type of activity,” he said.

“You’ve seen three murders potentially using knives and one attempted within the last five weeks or so, this is a growing concern.

“It looks like it is a growing problem here, certainly among young people knives are almost becoming acceptable.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Sonia Copeland said: “This is truly dreadful news, which I know will be the cause of real concern in the local community.

“I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the dead man’s family and friends at what will be an awful time for them. 

“I know that the police are treating this death as a murder investigation, and I urge anyone who can help the police get to the bottom of what has happened to come forward immediately.”

Alliance Councillor David Armitage said Mr Leeman’s death had shocked the local community.

“East Belfast has seen a number of deaths in recent weeks, which have caused great distress here,” he said.

“It is important the police establish the circumstances of this man’s death.”

PUP Councillor Dr John Kyle said that the levels of violence and loss of life in east Belfast were “deeply concerning”.

Dr Kyle added: “Police, politicians, community leaders and statutory agencies need to recognise their responsibilities and work together to urgently address these issues.”

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