Belfast Telegraph

Shankill bomber Sean Kelly is freed after shambolic probe into shooting

By Liam Clarke

The police investigation into the shooting of a teenager has been branded "a bit of a shambles".

The shooting was termed a paramilitary-style attack, but then Shankill bomber Sean Kelly was arrested and that status was changed to non-paramilitary. Kelly was released unconditionally yesterday, and the shooting was again classed as a paramilitary attack.

Pressure is growing on the PSNI to explain why it twice changed the designation of the shooting, in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.

UUP justice spokesman Tom Elliott said he was suspicious of the motives behind the changes over the attack that left the 18-year-old man seriously injured.

The PSNI obtained an extension to Kelly's detention less than an hour before it released him. But the magistrate refused the 30 hours asked for after police said they could produce no forensic or witness evidence.

There is some mystery as to why the police asked for an extension on Kelly's detention, saying they needed time to continue inquiries, but then released him.

There is speculation that they wanted to examine CCTV footage, but found the recordings missing.

Mr Elliott said: "So far there seems to be a lot of confusion around it and it doesn't help the overall situation when you have this confusion. I hope the police let us know if this is a suspected paramilitary-style shooting or not, because they said it was, then said it wasn't, then came out and said it was again, and I suppose it would be a bit of a shambles, you could put it that way.

"I suppose there may be political pressure, especially from Sinn Fein, and that's for the police to accept that or deny it," he said.

He added: "I am certainly very curious as to why the police would initially say that the shooting was "paramilitary-style", then reclassify it as not linked to paramilitaries once it was made known that Sean Kelly was being questioned, and then to change their story again, after his release."

Sinn Fein member Kelly (39) had refused to make any statement to the police or offer an explanation for his movements.

The former IRA prisoner is on early release. He could be returned to jail by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers if she gets credible intelligence he was reinvolved in terrorism. If he was believed to be involved, the description of the shooting would be crucial to her decision.

The arrest and its handling by the police have sparked a major political row. First Minister Peter Robinson has demanded to meet the Chief Constable to be told why police twice changed their description of the shooting.

He warned it could destabilise the political process. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told him to calm down.

The victim of the attack was named locally as Padraig McAleenan from the Bone area, who has not identified his assailant. Mr McAleenan served some months in jail for rioting.

On Tuesday between 8pm and 9pm he was shot three times in the upper leg near the entrance to the Flax Centre. The shooting, which appears to have been a mutilation rather than an attempt to kill, left him badly wounded.

He was hit by three bullets, one which struck him in the thigh, severing an artery. Another passed through his bladder. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he is in intensive care.

His mother called his attackers "rotten scumbags", adding: "The doctors say he was very lucky that he got to hospital when he did. He had lost a lot of blood. I thought he was dead.

"He served his time. He was months in jail for the rioting then they have the cheek to go and shoot him. It is not their place, they are not judge and jury.

"People like that need locked up and put down. So much for the ceasefire. They are shooting their own people."

She said she can't understand why police doubted paramilitaries were involved: "With a gun involved, who else would it have been? There's nobody else would've done it."

Story so far

Sean Kelly was part of a two-man IRA team that bombed Frizzell's fish shop in 1993. The explosion killed 10 people including his accomplice Thomas Begley. Kelly was jailed for life but was released on licence in 2000. He was returned to jail in 2005 to complete his sentence by Peter Hain, the Secretary of State, who accused him of becoming involved in terrorism. Mr Hain released him again a few weeks later, and the next day the IRA declared an end to its armed campaign.

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