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PSNI arrest three men after man shot dead at close range in Belfast garden

Police say they are hunting a "dangerous gunman and his associates".

Three men have been arrested in connection with the murder of a man in north Belfast.

The victim was shot several times at close range in a garden in Etna Drive in Ardoyne at around 11.50am on Saturday.

Police confirmed the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said: “This was a brutal killing and I believe the man was shot a number of times at close range. I am astounded by the recklessness of the killer or killers. Not only did they carry out this callous murder leaving a family experiencing their worst nightmare, but they did not care that children and other members of this north Belfast community were placed at risk.

“Murder is a heinous crime and killing someone during this global Coronavirus pandemic is sickening when people are trying to adjust to living a new way and trying to cope with the pressures this brings.

“Those involved in this murder selfishly gave no thought to the impact on frontline emergency services who are already working hard to keep people safe with an already stretched resource.

“I have now launched a murder investigation and while it is too early to speculate on the motive for the murder I can confirm that I am following a number of lines of enquiry in respect of the investigation."

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Forensics at the scene of a shooting in the Etna Drive area of north Belfast on April 4th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Forensics at the scene of a shooting in the Etna Drive area of north Belfast on April 4th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Forensics at the scene of a shooting in the Etna Drive area of north Belfast on April 4th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A light coloured car, registration YLZ 7052, was found burned out in nearby Kingston Court. Police are seeking to establish the relevancy of the car to the investigation.

Police would like to hear from anyone who saw the car and its occupants either before 11.50am in the Etna Drive area or after the murder had taken place.

Police are also seeking information about a dark coloured vehicle which was seen in Ardoyne Avenue minutes after the car had been set on fire.

Mr Murphy said: "I know the community is in shock at the moment but I would appeal to anyone who has information about this appalling murder to bring that information forward to the police so that we can remove this dangerous gunman and his associates from the streets.

“I am aware the area was busy with pedestrians and people out in their front gardens so I am asking anyone who may have captured any footage of the incident to please make that available to us also. I have activated the Major Incident Public Portal which can be accessed at mipp.police.uk.

“The investigation team can be contacted by calling 101, quoting reference 562 04/04/20.”

One neighbour told the BBC they heard "four big bangs" before running outside to see what was happening.

The man said he saw the victim "stumbling out of the garden". He then ran over and gave the man CPR.

SDLP North Belfast councillor Paul McCusker said that people in Ardoyne are in shock.

Cllr Paul McCusker said: “This brutal crime has cause immense shock in Ardoyne today. A man was shot in a garden in this community in broad daylight. It’s hard to describe how traumatic this has been for people who were going about their business.

“My thoughts are with this man’s family at an incredibly difficult time.

“Police have locked down a large part of the community where the shooting took place and near a burned out car nearby. I would urge everyone to cooperate with PSNI officers as they investigate.

“Those responsible for this barbaric crime have no support here. They need to be caught and brought to justice. I would encourage anyone with information to bring it to the police as soon as possible.”

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly condemned the shooting.

“I would appeal for calm at this time in the area and stress that anybody with any information about this horrific incident should bring it immediately to the PSNI.

“Actions like this have no place in our society and I repeat my condemnation of those involved.

“At a time when all frontline statutory agencies and indeed communities are doing what they can to fight against Covid-19 this just adds to the suffering unfortunately being experienced by local people at this time.”

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A burnt car following a shooting in the Etna Drive area of north Belfast has been recovered in Jamaica Street on April 4th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A burnt car following a shooting in the Etna Drive area of north Belfast has been recovered in Jamaica Street on April 4th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A burnt car following a shooting in the Etna Drive area of north Belfast has been recovered in Jamaica Street on April 4th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I unreservedly condemn this senseless murder and offer my deepest sympathies to the family. Those responsible for this appalling crime have left a family grieving and a community in shock. There is no place for the gun in our society and it is time to stop these attacks.

“This appalling crime places additional pressures on our first responders, at a time when they are already dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and all of the challenges that brings with it.

“I would urge anyone with information to pass it to the police on the 101 number or to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.”

Belfast Telegraph