Two murders within 48 hours blamed on dissidents as business leaders fly in for investment conference
Dissident republicans accused of murdering two men in Northern Ireland
Two “brutal and horrific” murders in within 48 hours have cast a pall as world business leaders descend on Northern Ireland for a major investment conference.
In the first killing on Tuesday a father of four was shot in Belfast. The body of Kevin Kearney was found dumped in a lake in Alexandra Park off the Antrim Road. He is said to have defied dissident republican threats to leave north Belfast in the weeks up to his murder.
Police said that Mr Kearney (46) was known to them for previous offending but would not comment on reports he was involved in the drugs trade.
A rogue republican group calling itself the IRA said it shot Mr Kearney following an “investigation” it carried out.
In the second murder, a lone gunman targeted Barry McCrory (35) in a flat on Londonderry’s Shipquay Street in the city centre yesterday. The gunman got into the fourth floor flat after gaining access to a communal hallway. His partner was forced into another room and he was shot in the head and the chest.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison said police were still trying to establish a motive.
He said: “This was a brutal, horrific execution of an individual.
“We believe this attack was carried out by a single gunman who was wearing dark bomber jacket and dark clothing and carrying a dark rucksack.
“Mr McCrory is known to us but I have to say no one has the right to act as judge, jury and executioner. There was no information that there was a threat made against Mr McCrory and we have no information that this is linked to the murder in Belfast.”
In Belfast neighbours of Mr Kearney said he had installed expensive security measures at his home recently. They included a large dome security camera at the front of the property in the Dunmore area.
The front door was also said to have been reinforced.
The brazen way in which he was gunned down in the park in broad daylight has shocked and frightened people in the area.
Asked about any involvement of dissident republicans in the attack, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, who is leading the murder hunt, said: “We are aware of the claim of responsibility and that is forming part of my investigation.
“Kevin had been going about his normal routine so there is an element of targeting.
“It is important we identify witnesses, recover the firearm that was used, and we can only do that with the co-operation of the people of north Belfast, which I have to say to date has been fantastic.
“Kevin was known to us for previous offending, but what I want to make clear is regardless of Kevin's lifestyle, regardless of his previous offending, there is no justification whatsoever for someone to shoot him dead as they did,” said the detective.
Police appealed for witnesses who may have seen Mr Kearney on Tuesday morning. They said he was wearing distinctive bright blue trainers and dark clothing.
They have also requested information on a silver Peugeot 406, registration GNZ 8168. It was found burnt out at 9.30am in Dunore Court in the New Lodge.
North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the murderers were “maverick, self-serving, hypocritical groups bringing death to the community”.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds called the murder appalling and First Minister Peter Robinson said: “The rule of law is absolutely paramount and there can be no justification for anyone taking justice into their own hands.”
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers branded both murders “cowardly vigilante justice.”