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Vigil as murder probe launched

A candelit vigil was held last night where murdered 60-year-old Joe O'Neill was attacked in Belfast city centre at the weekend.

Police launched a murder investigation yesterday after the west Belfast father-of-two died following an assault outside a taxi depot in King Street in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr O'Neill, originally from Scotland, was a barman in Cosgrove's Bar in King Street where he had been working on Saturday night.

It is understood he went for a drink in nearby Castle Street and was later involved in a row with two men at the taxi rank.

He was attacked just outside the depot at about 1.15am on Sunday and died in the Royal Victoria Hospital yesterday morning.

A 34-year-old man was charged on Sunday night with grievous bodily harm and had been bailed to appear at Belfast Magistrate's Court next month. However, a police spokesman said the charge may change following the death.

Police say they are investigating all lines of inquiry.

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Dozens of Mr O'Neill's friends braved the driving rain last night to hold a vigil for 'Scotch Joe', founder and chairman of the Falls Road Emerald Celtic Supporters Club.

Jimmy Rooney, who knew Joe through the club, described him as "a gentleman". "He didn't deserve this. His family are devastated."

Mr Rooney's wife, Patricia, said: "It's unbelievable. He was never aggressive. He is not the sort of man to be involved in a row."

Another friend from the supporters' club described how Mr O'Neill sent a 'get well' teddy bear to former Rangers player Ally McCoist when his child was sick during the late '90s.

"That was the sort of man he was," Mr Rooney added.

His family were too upset to attend last night's vigil.

Relatives flew in from Scotland to be with the family yesterday.

Sinn Fein councillor Matt Garrett was a neighbour of Mr O'Neill in Brooke Park in west Belfast for more than 10 years.

He described his death as "an absolute tragedy".

The Belfast councillor appealed for anyone with information or who saw anything in King Street on Sunday morning to contact the PSNI.

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