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Police must act quickly on Davison murder

Gerard Davidson, who was shot dead in the markets area of Belfast this morning

THE PSNI has been warned that"swift action" is needed in tracking down the killer of senior republican Gerard 'Jock' Davison amid growing tensions over the brutal execution.

The former prominent Provisional IRA commander in Belfast was shot dead shortly after 9am yesterday as he walked to work at a community centre in the Markets area of south Belfast.

The 47 year-old father-of-three and grandfather was shot several times in the back of the head and chest and died at the scene.

Distressed members of the Davison family clashed with police as they cordoned off the scene at Welsh Street close to Upper Stanfield Street.

The victim's body was at first covered by a blanket before forensic officers arrived and covered the area with a tent.

According to eyewitnesses a gunman emerged from an alleyway at the side of a corner shop where the father-of-three called each morning at around the same time to buy a newspaper.

The killer appeared to have known Mr Davison's routine and had local knowledge of the area. The gunman walked up behind the victim and shot him several times before making off on foot.

Once a member of the IRA's 'Northern Command' Mr Davison had in recent times been heavily involved in community work for the Market's Development Association. They issued a statement condemning the killing and blaming "criminal elements".

Mr Davison had been a senior member of the IRA in the early 1990s during a time when the organisation was responsible for the murder of a number of people accused of drug dealing in the city. It is understood he had been warned he was under threat in the past.

He was also believed to be involved in the bar fracas that would later lead to the death of Belfast man Robert McCartney in January 2005 and was among three IRA members expelled following an internal investigation in the wake of the death. He was questioned by police but released without charge.

Senior republicans from across Belfast gathered at the scene yesterday in a show of solidarity with the Davison family, among them north Belfast republicans Eddie Copeland and Brian Gillen.

A Sinn Féin source said there was "shock and anger" among those who knew Mr Davison and that police need to take "swift action" and "do their job" in tracking down the killer quickly in order to reduce tensions in the area.

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey, who was also at the scene, paid tribute to the victim saying he was a "respected" member of the community.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, ruled out both loyalist and dissident paramilitary involvement saying the murder has "no place in the new Northern Ireland".

"I do not believe it is sectarian," he said. "I do not believe dissident republicans have been involved. However, we will keep an open mind as information comes into the inquiry."

The senior officer added that while "many people in Northern Ireland have a past" that can be no justification for murder.

Police last night carried out searches across Belfast linked to the shooting.

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