Loyalist David Murphy ‘beaten up by gang just hours before gun murder’
Victim may have been shot on Sunday
Loyalist blasted to death in a shotgun attack may have been murdered on Sunday — just hours after he had been beaten up, sources have indicated.
The body of 52-year-old David Murphy was found on the kitchen floor by a neighbour who called on Tuesday afternoon.
But a source told the Belfast Telegraph that the victim, who lived alone, is believed to have been killed on Sunday night at his home on Church Road near Glenwherry, which is on the main road between Ballymena and Larne.
And it is understood police are also investigating reports that Murphy had been badly beaten by a gang that same day.
Yesterday forensics investigators searched the farmhouse and outbuildings for clues into the killing of Mr Murphy, who police confirmed was known to them.
His mother and sister, who live in the area, are being comforted by family and friends as they try to come to terms with their loss.
Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who is leading investigation, said the victim’s background would be considered to see whether it was relevant.
“David Murphy was at home, he was alone, he felt he was safe in his house and was entitled to feel that he was safe in his house,” DS Murphy said.
“Someone decided deliberately to go to his house and fire shots at him, killing him in his house when he should be at his safest. That for me is indicative of the level of brutality here that we are talking about in terms of this offence.”
The officer said the victim was killed “between Saturday and Tuesday lunchtime” and he asked the public to help police trace Mr Murphy’s movements during that time.
He also appealed for assistance with recovery of the gun.
“We haven’t yet recovered the weapon that was used,” he said.
“I believe the weapon to have been a shotgun and I’m keen for members of the public to contact us if they find weapons that have been discarded or hidden so that I can establish whether they’re linked to this investigation or not.”
When asked if the deceased was a member of the UVF or if he had any links to the terrorist organisation, DS Murphy said the investigation was “at a very early stage”, adding that “no single line of enquiry is any more or less relevant than any other”.
He added: “We are trying to ask people to help us fill some of those gaps about who David was with and whether members of the public can themselves suggest any motive for why anyone would have wanted to do him any harm.”
The senior detective said it was too early to have a clear idea about the motive. He also appealed for people with dash cams on their vehicles who were in the Church Road area, or people who may have noticed anything suspicious, to come forward.
Sources close to the investigation have raised concerns about finding the killer because of the difficulty associated with retrieving ballistics from a shotgun and linking it back to any individual or group.
Among the most recent high-profile shotgun murders were that of UDA chief John Boreland in 2016 and north Belfast taxi driver Michael McGibbon in the same year.
Last month Warren Boylan was shot dead in Warrenpoint.
TUV leader and North Antrim MLA Jim Allister, who lives a few miles from the crime scene, said that the local community was reeling from the news.
“There’s palpable shock in this quiet area that murder has come to its doorstep,” he said.
“Whatever the circumstances, it’s absolutely imperative that those responsible are speedily brought to justice.”
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley said there’s “no room for gun law in this society”.
“This part of my constituency is a very rural, remote and quiet area — a place where people would notice tranquillity, not terrorism,” he said.
“What has happened here has shattered that silence. There’s nothing justified about a man picking up a gun and taking a man’s life, no matter what the circumstances are.”
SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said: “The lesson is that these shadowy forces who wreak such havoc need to be rooted out of our society.”
Sinn Fein representative Oliver McMullan said: “This is a quiet area and locals are alarmed at what has happened.”