New murder appeal as CCTV images of dissident shotgun killers released
Police have blamed a little-known dissident republican group called Arm na Poblachta for the shotgun murder of a young father in west Belfast.
The PSNI released shocking CCTV footage yewsterday showing two hooded men entering the house of Raymond Johnston (28) on Glenbawn Avenue at around 7.45pm on February 13.
One man holds open the door for a second man, who is armed with a shotgun, before they are both seen making their way inside where Mr Johnston was making pancakes.
The brutal killing, witnessed by the victim's fiancee Eileen Robinson and her 11-year-old daughter, was carried out in just six seconds.
Detective Superintendent John McVea said Mr Johnston's entire family, including his parents Bernie and Noel and young son Ethan, had been devastated.
"Not only did they lose Raymond in the most brutal way, but his partner and her daughter also witnessed his horrific murder," he said.
"The trauma of witnessing such a cold, clinical and calculated killing will be etched in their memories for the rest of their lives. They didn't deserve this and there is absolutely no justification for murdering Raymond."
After releasing the CCTV footage, Mr McVea stated publicly for the first time that detectives were "certain" that Arm na Poblachta (Army of the Republic) had direct involvement in the killing. Now they are seeking to identify the gunmen who "deliberated, planned and carried out" the brazen attack.
"We need to identify the perpetrators and take them off the streets in order to prevent further murders," he added.
The same group has been linked to former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell, who was sentenced to 18 years behind bars at the Old Bailey in London last year. He confessed to a series of terror charges, which included making more than a dozen pipe bombs for dissidents.
More than 40 weapons hides were found following his arrest, with timers, ammunition and police vests among items recovered.
The group is also believed to be connected to an armour piercing horizontal rocket discovered in Poleglass last November.
Addressing mourners at Mr Johnston's funeral, parish priest Fr Aidan Keenan described him as "a lovable rogue" who would have admitted that he was "no saint" in the past.
Yesterday Mr McVea said police were keeping "an open mind" on the motive for the killing and refused to confirm whether or not detectives believe Raymond himself had dissident links.
"The people who need to be asked why they murdered Raymond are the gunmen," he said.
The police officer appealed for the community's support in ensuring the perpetrators are brought before the court and urged everyone living in the area to search their "memories and consciences" to help them piece together the jigsaw.
"Did you see Raymond that Tuesday, did you see the gunmen approach his house?" Mr McVea asked.
Six men have previously been arrested and multiple properties have been searched across Belfast and the wider area. But no one has ever been charged with the murder.