Markets murder: Former IRA chief gunned down as a child cried out 'daddy, daddy'
Children watched in horror as a former IRA boss linked to one of Northern Ireland's most infamous murders was executed in broad daylight.
Gerard 'Jock' Davison, described as a man with many enemies, was gunned down in a carefully-planned ambush.
The 47-year-old was walking to work when he was shot in the head in the Markets area of south Belfast.
Witnesses described how the gangland-style slaying took place in front of terrified children, one of whom cried out "daddy, daddy".
Police are now believed to have mounted a manhunt for a former associate of Robert McCartney, who was killed during a fight with IRA members in 2005.
It is thought a property in the north Belfast area was raided by police last night but the occupant was not at home.
Davison, a one-time IRA commander in the city, was previously accused of ordering the murder of Mr McCartney.
He was one of three IRA members expelled in the wake of the 2005 killing, which seriously jeopardised the peace process.
Police have ruled out a sectarian motive or dissident republican involvement, amid speculation the shooting was linked to a grudge.
A PSNI source told the Belfast Telegraph: "He was a man who would have made plenty of enemies over the years."
The gun attack took place around 9am yesterday at the corner of Welsh Street and Stanfield Street, near an office where Davison was employed as a community worker.
Witnesses said he was walking along the street when a gunman approached and shot him at point-blank range.
Police quickly cordoned off the scene and a forensic tent was placed around the body.
A number of high-profile Belfast republicans were among small groups who watched as scenes of crime officers examined the area.
At one stage distraught family members tried to get to the body, only to be held back by relatives.
In a direct appeal to the community, a senior officer urged people to "engage with detectives" investigating the murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway from Serious Crime Branch, the senior investigating officer, said: "This was a cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight in a residential area and it has no place in the new Northern Ireland.
"We have detectives in the Markets area making house-to-house inquiries and seeking to identify witnesses. I would appeal to local people to co-operate with them and give them any information they have."
Asked about a possible threat hanging over Davison, DCI Galloway said: "I do not want to discuss the personal security of any individual, including Mr Davison."
Davison was a community worker for the Markets Development Association. The group described the murder as a "callous attack".
"The committee and staff of the Markets Development Association strongly condemn the cowardly murder by criminal elements of our colleague Gerard Davison who worked so tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for the people of the Market community," it said.
"This was a callous attack, not only on Gerard, but indeed, on the community as a whole."
In 2005 Davison was questioned by police following the murder of Robert McCartney.
The 33-year-old was beaten and stabbed outside a city centre bar.
Davison was accused of drawing his finger across his throat in a gesture to other IRA members in the bar. However, in separate interviews in 2005 and 2007, he denied any involvement in Mr McCartney's murder.
Davison was never charged. His uncle, Terence Davison, was acquitted of the killing.
Justice Minister David Ford led political condemnation of yesterday's murder.
"There can be no excuse, explanation or rational reason why another family should be made to suffer through the taking of a life," he said.
"Those who carried out this heinous crime have no place in our community."