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Stephen Carson killing: three men arrested

THREE men have been arrested in an investigation into the suspected gangland murder of Stephen Carson in south Belfast.

Stephen Carson (28) was shot in the head on Thursday night after a group of armed men broke in as he was eating dinner with his partner and nine-year-old son.

Police arrested three men aged 32, 37 and 39 on suspicion of murder following searches in west Belfast on Friday night and recovered a firearm.

The killers of father-of-two Stephen Carson are also believed to have been responsible for the murder of Conor McKee last month.

Mr Carson was shot through a bathroom door while his partner and son were just yards away in another room.

Police have said their main line of enquiry is that the "brutal and cold-blooded" killing was part of a criminal feud.

The Irish News understands he was targeted by members of a shadowy gang which was also involved in the murder of heroin addict Conor McKee (below) in north Belfast on January 7.

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There was speculation Mr McKee may have been blackmailed by members of the criminal gang, who were also behind threats made to Mr Carson.

The latest murder victim (pictured below) had been forced to leave his native west Belfast following a bloody street brawl involving a large number of men in 2010, during which a man almost lost an arm in a sword attack.

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His close friend Kieran McManus, who was convicted of affray, was shot dead in 2013.

Mr Carson, who was released from prison last October having served a sentence for robbery, was having a meal with his partner and child on Thursday night when "at least three men carrying a hammer and a shotgun burst into the house" at Walmer Street off the Ormeau Road.

After a confrontation he ran into a downstairs bathroom but was shot through the door.

Police carried out a search of a house in nearby Sunnyside Street yesterday, with items taken away for examination.

Sources say the gang responsible is made up of people who have been expelled from paramilitary groups and is also involved in tiger kidnap and cash-in-transit robberies.

The second shotgun murder of the year has led to fears of an escalation of gangland-style criminality in the city.

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