Belfast Telegraph

Prominent loyalist John Boreland gunned down in Belfast street knew his life was under threat, say police

Detective Galloway: We are clearly looking at tensions within loyalism at this time

By Nevin Farrell

Prominent loyalist John Boreland gunned down in north Belfast, knew his life was under threat, detectives investigating his murder have said.

The 47-year-old father-of-three was killed on Sunday night in north Belfast not far from where he had been based.

In a statement on Twitter the PSNI said the shooting happened in the Sunningdale Gardens area, off the Ballysillan Road, at around 9.50pm. There were no reports of anyone else suffering injuries in Belfast.

Detectives said he was returning home to his flat and having just got out of his car he was shot a number of times with a shotgun and died at the scene from his injuries.

At around 11pm, around 100 people gathered on the Ballysillan Road close to Sunningdale Gardens as police put up a cordon.

Heavily armed police sealed off the main road with Land Rovers and another was positioned across the entrance to Sunningdale Gardens.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon detectives said police have told the victim in recent months that his life was under threat.

'Tensions within loyalism'

Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway said the main line of enquiry is "tensions within loyalism".

He said: " I have met today with his mum and dad, his fiancée and his sister and he leaves behind two sons and a daughter.

"They are all completely devastated at his death."

Mr Galloway continued: "He was known to police and had been the victim of a previous shooting in 2014 and was aware he was under threat at the time of his murder."

The detective has made a series of specific appeals.

"I want to speak to anyone who was in Sunningdale Gardens last night at around 9.50pm.  I am very keen to trace the drivers of a number of vehicles, a motorbike, a silver Renault Megane and a black Peugeot 307.

"I'm keen to speak to anyone who was in John's company yesterday and track his movements.

"I would also like to speak to his friends and associates and I appeal to them them directly to engage with detectives and come and talk to us."

Sectarian motive ruled out

Detective Galloway ruled out a sectarian motive.

"We are not yet 24 hours into this investigation so therefore it is too early for me to be definitive around a motive. But we are clearly looking at tensions within loyalism at this time.

"What I can tell you is that it is my assessment that this is not a sectarian murder."

He added: "I would appeal directly to the community to come forward, we want and our aim is to bring the people to the courts.

"We need the help and the information from members of the public.

"I ask those people to come forward and tell us what they know."

At the scene on Sunday night the mood was tense and the crowd included well-known loyalist Andre Shoukri, a close associate of Boreland's, who was clearly distraught at what had happened. He confirmed it was Boreland who had been killed, but did not wish to comment further.

A local man said people were shocked that a shooting had happened in their midst. He said: "We thought these days were over. Nobody can believe this has happened."

Another man said: "We heard the man who was shot dead lives in a flat in Sunningdale and was coming out to get into a car when he was shot dead. I heard the police all flying by."

Police remained at the scene on Monday morning.


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There has been widespread condemnation of the killing.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted her shocked and disgust.

"I urge everyone to work with the police as they investigate," she said.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness branded the shooting "shameless".

"There can be no justification for the murder of a well known Loyalist in N.Belfast tonight," he tweeted.

"This was shameful & I unreservedly condemn it."

Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston described it as "terrible news".

"It is appalling to hear that a man has been shot dead," he said. "I would appeal to anyone who can, to help the police."

North Belfast UUP councillor David Browne said: "I would plead to those people who have done this to stop, and if there is any thought of retaliation, not to get into this spiral."

SDLP MLA for north Belfast Nichola Mallon said there was "never any justification" for violence.

She said: "It is shocking to hear that another life has been taken in North Belfast. There are real concerns in the community that this could lead to further acts of violence. I am calling for calm to allow the police to carry out a full investigation, and bring those responsible to justice.

"The people of North Belfast wake up to news of this kind far too often. There was never any justification for this violence and there never will be.

"I urge anyone who saw anything or believes they may have any information about this murder to contact the PSNI."

Belfast Progressive Unionist Party councillor Julie-Anne Corr said on Facebook: "Heavy hearted learning of the fatal shooting in Sunningdale Gardens".

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said on Twitter: "Concerned to hear of fatal shooting in N Belfast. No place for violence in communities. Urge anyone with info to contact PSNI."

Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Ross Hussey, added: "I am very saddened to hear of a fatal shooting in north Belfast.

"Murder is murder and cannot be justified. It must be condemned.

"I would urge anyone with information to contact the police so that those responsible can be brought to justice."

The Ballysillan Road was closed to allow for investigations. It has since reopened to traffic.

Police appeal for information and calm

Police have appealed for information following the murder of prominent loyalist John Boreland in north Belfast.

They have also called for calm in the local community and said there will be an increased police presence in the area over the coming days.

Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, from Serious Crime Branch, is leading the investigation. He said:  “At just before 9:50 last night John Boreland was returning home to his flat at Sunningdale Gardens in north Belfast. He had just got out of his car when he was shot at close range a number of times. His injuries were such that he died at the scene.

“Police believe that a shotgun was used in the attack. Mr Boreland was 46; he had lived in north Belfast for some time and leaves two sons and a daughter, a fiancee, a sister and his mother and father. I have visited the family today and I am sure you will understand that they are completely devastated.

“John Boreland  was known to police.  He had survived a previous attempt on his life in 2014 and had been warned by police about his safety within the past few months.

“Police are following a number of lines of enquiry in relation to this murder. Tensions within loyalist paramilitarism and criminality are among those lines of enquiry but they are not the only ones. Our early assessment is that this was not a sectarian attack.

“It is important that people with information about what happened last night or who have information about Mr Boreland come forward and give that information to police.

"I have a number of specific appeals:

  • I want to hear from anyone who was in the Sunningdale Gardens area around 9.50pm last night who saw or heard the shooting or anything suspicious.
  • I also want to hear from anyone who saw a number of vehicles leaving the scene last night. These include a motorbike, a silver Renault Megan car and a black Peugeot 307 car.
  • I also want to talk to anyone who can assist with completing a picture of Mr Boreland’s movements in the 24 hours leading up to his death. We know he was in a bar on the Oldpark Road until shortly before he was shot. I want to talk to anyone who was in his company there or saw or spoke to him after he left.   

“This was a brutal and senseless killing. There can be no justification for it. Police are committed to bringing those responsible before the courts. We are also committed to taking the weapon used to kill Mr Boreland off the streets. To achieve this, we need assistance from the community. 

“We have a special incident room set up at Musgrave police station and I would ask anyone with any information to contact detectives on the non-emergency number 101 or use the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if they want to provide information anonymously.

Local police Superintendent Paula Hilman condemned the murder. She said: “Police are aware of tensions within loyalist paramilitary groupings in north Belfast and surrounding areas.

“We already have a significant policing operation in place across north Belfast, so I am appealing for people to be calm and not take the law into their own hands.

“I am also appealing to local people to work with us and provide information about this murder or any criminal activity.

“Detectives can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101 or people can use the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 without giving their details.

“It is only by working together that we can ensure that any criminal activity is appropriately addressed and that residents are able to go about their lives in safety.”

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