Belfast Telegraph

Murdered career criminal Malcolm McKeown was recently bailed in aggravated burglary case

Body of Malcolm McKeown found in his car at rear of forecourt by children out playing almost two hours after locals heard a number of loud bangs

Malcolm McKeown
Malcolm McKeown
Police and an ambulance at the scene of the shooting in Waringstown on Monday night
Forensic officers with a burnt-out car on Glenavon Lane in Lurgan believed to be connected to the murder
Police at the scene of the shooting yesterday
Police at the scene of the shooting yesterday
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A man murdered on Monday night in Co Down was a high-profile career criminal who had been released on bail days before his killing.

Malcolm McKeown from Meadowvale in Waringstown was "shot in cold blood in broad daylight" at approximately 7.15pm before being found in his car at around 9pm, police said.

The 54-year-old's vehicle was parked to the rear of the Co Down village's Dewart's service station on Main Street.

It is believed McKeown's body was discovered by a group of young boys who were playing in the area shortly before 9pm. Locals had reported hearing the shots around 7.15pm, but believed them to be fireworks.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery said that Mr McKeown entered Dewart's at around 7.15pm before walking back to his vehicle. It was at this stage he was shot.

"Mr McKeown, who was a father-of-three, was shot in cold blood in broad daylight and I have now launched a murder investigation," he said.

One line of investigation may be whether the people responsible were alerted to his whereabouts as a result of his recent court appearances, which led to his address being made public.

Mr McKeown, who had been charged with the aggravated burglary of a house in Lisburn on November 14, failed to appear before Lisburn Magistrates Court hours before his death.

Having been previously granted bail by the High Court, his solicitor said he did not attend Monday's hearing as his bail conditions barred him from entering the city.

District Judge Rosie Watters, who had previously denied Mr McKeown bail before that decision was overturned in the High Court, denied bail to his co-accused on Monday.

Judge Watters added: "[It was] my view that Mr McKeown was not a suitable candidate for bail.

"I think if a High Court judge wants to release him on bail that's his prerogative, but I'm concerned about the commission of further offences and the protection of the public."

Judges are bound by guidelines when granting bail and must take into account factors such as flight risk, the risk of reoffending or interfering with witnesses, as well as mitigating circumstances.

Mr Montgomery also appealed for information from the public.

"Were you in Dewart's garage or in Waringstown Main Street on Monday between 6pm and 7.30pm?" he asked.

"Did you see Mr McKeown's vehicle, a silver-coloured BMW, registration XEZ 5518? Do you have dash-cam footage on your vehicle?

"I am appealing for information about anyone witnessed in and around the filling station that night between 6pm and 7.30pm. I would also like to hear from anyone who saw Mr McKeown at any stage during Monday."

Mr Montgomery added that the investigation is at an early stage and he is keeping an open mind about the motive.

A blue car was seen leaving the scene of the shooting and later, a VW Passat, registration RK62 PLX, was set alight in the nearby Glenavon Lane area of Lurgan on Monday night.

Mr Montgomery also appealed for information in relation to this incident.

"Did you see this vehicle or any people with the vehicle?" he asked. "If so, do you know where they went?"

Speaking outside Dewart's service station yesterday morning, DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said the murder had sent "shock waves" through the village.

"To hear of this shooting has been quite traumatising, particularly for young families and the children within the vicinity," she continued.

"This is a busy garage and it was certainly a busy time of the evening for it to happen.

"Obviously any death is regrettable and our thoughts are with the family."

The Upper Bann representative also encouraged those with information to bring it forward to the PSNI and said that she had spoken to a number of residents following Monday night's events.

"There is just a sense of shock," she said. "Residents are traumatised and I think it's important that police are out today on the beat. I am sure they can restore community confidence and try to keep things calm."

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who is also a member of the Policing Board, added that people in the local community are worried about any potential repercussions that may come from the murder.

"To find there was such evil on our streets last night will be appalling and horrific for many to find this out this morning," she said. "No matter who the person was, no one has the right to act as judge, jury and executioner.

"Mr McKeown moved in dangerous circles and I think many people are worried about any potential repercussions.

"I hope anyone with even the smallest scrap of information will assist the police in their investigation to bring the perpetrators of this evil act to justice."

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd also pleaded for anyone with any information to bring it to the attention of the PSNI.

"The shooting of a man in Waringstown has left the local community absolutely shocked," he added.

"This is a very quiet area and people are appalled by what has happened."

Following the shooting, Waringstown's Main Street was reopened to the public yesterday at 5pm.

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