Belfast Telegraph

Murder of father outside school linked to INLA

Police believe the lone gunman had previously tried to kill Jim Donegan, 43, five days earlier.

CCTV footage of the suspected gunman behind the murder of Jim Donegan (PSNI/PA)
CCTV footage of the suspected gunman behind the murder of Jim Donegan (PSNI/PA)

Detectives investigating the murder of a father outside a school in Belfast have linked the killing to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Jim Donegan, 43, was shot dead as he waited to collect his 13-year-old son from St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School in west Belfast in December.

Detectives said the same killer had been waiting for his victim at the scene five days earlier but Mr Donegan did not pick up his son that day.

CCTV images showing the man waiting at the school five days prior to the murder have been broadcast on the BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow Live programme.

Mr Donegan was gunned down in front of schoolchildren and parents on Tuesday December 4.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said police originally believed the murder was the work of dissident republicans, but further inquiries had identified the INLA as the perpetrators.

He said: “At this stage we believe it was the INLA that was involved, although we don’t have a closed mind in terms of anybody else who may have been involved in the murder.”

Mr Murphy said Mr Donegan was shot eight times with a semi-automatic handgun.

The detective said police do not yet know whether the gunman acted alone.

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An image of how the gunman may look (PSNI/PA)

Asked if there was a drugs link to the murder, Mr Murphy said he was not prepared to speculate on the motive.

The officer said detectives had received good co-operation from the community in west Belfast.

He added: “The public response both in west Belfast and more broadly has been really positive, this was a community left absolutely horrified – and quite rightly so.

“The community in west Belfast have been very engaged with police, but we do understand that communities continue to live in fear when these things happen on their doorsteps.”

The INLA was a small but active republican paramilitary grouping during the Troubles.

It killed Margaret Thatcher’s Northern Ireland spokesman Airey Neave in 1979, and leading loyalist Billy Wright in 1997.

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Police at the scene where Mr Donegan was shot dead in December (Niall Carson/PA)

It was also behind one of Northern Ireland’s bloodiest atrocities when it killed 17 people in a bombing at the Droppin’ Well pub in Ballykelly, Co Londonderry, in 1982.

The armed group said it had decommissioned weapons almost a decade ago but independent monitors have said it remains deeply involved in serious crime.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery said the suspect in Mr Donegan’s shooting may be aged in his late 30s to early 40s, approximately 5ft 8in, and may walk with a limp or have an existing medical condition which affects his gait.

He added: “Jim was a husband, a brother, a father to two sons and a stepfather, and over three months have passed since his cold-blooded murder.

“Jim’s family deserve to have answers and this dangerous gunman needs to be removed from our streets, but I need the public’s help to do this.

“I am releasing new CCTV footage which I believe shows the gunman, five days before Jim’s death, waiting for him to arrive to collect his son with hundreds of innocent children nearby.”

The PSNI released an image last month of what the suspected gunman may look like.

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Mr Donegan was shot dead while picking up his son from school (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Montgomery said: “My investigation into the callous execution of Mr Donegan continues to progress and a republican element is a main line of inquiry, specifically the INLA, but I really need the public’s help to remove this dangerous man from our streets.

“This is someone who thought it was acceptable to put the lives of countless children at risk and murder Jim – please help me put him before the courts.”

He added: “On the day of Jim’s murder, I believe the gunman emerged from Clonelly Avenue on to Glen Road around 3.10pm.

“He then walked past numerous children at around 3.15pm, calmly activated the pedestrian crossing, crossed the road and walked up to Jim’s car, firing his weapon eight times before fleeing the scene.

“He was wearing a high-vis, hip-length yellow jacket with ‘security’ on the back, dark bottoms with a grey-coloured hat or hood and was carrying a dark bag over his shoulder, which I believe contained the gun.

“I want to hear from you if you were in the area at the time. Did you see the gunman?

“The family have been left devastated and hundreds of children and families who witnessed the murder have also been left traumatised.”

PA

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