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Michael McGibbon murder: Republican Damien 'Dee' Fennell released without charge

Michael McGibbon and his wife Joanne, who tried to save her husband as he lay dying. Picture from Facebook
John Monaghan

PROMINENT republican Damien 'Dee' Fennell was released without charge last night following his arrest by police investigating the murder of a taxi driver in north Belfast.

Father-of-four Michael McGibbon (33) was shot several times in the leg by dissident republicans in an alleyway at Butler Place in Ardoyne on Friday night.

His wife Joanne, a nurse, tried in vain to save him before he was taken to the city's Royal Victoria Hospital where he later died.

Police said the shooting bore the hallmarks of a paramilitary-style attack that had "robbed a family of a treasured husband and father".

Mr Fennell (34), from Torrens Avenue, was detained on Sunday afternoon and taken to Musgrave police station. The Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective spokesman was released unconditionally yesterday afternoon.

Officers yesterday carried out door-to-door enquiries in Ardoyne as part of the investigation.

Sources in the area said that Mr McGibbon was targeted following "an alleged approach or comment made to a passenger in a taxi, who was the wife or partner of a dissident."

One source said: "The incident was intended to injure him, and send out a message that the group had 'replaced' the chucks (Provisional IRA) and that they are now the bastions and guardians of behaviour."

Police said that Mr McGibbon was visited by two masked men at his home on Thursday who warned him they "would be back" when he refused to leave the house.

He reported the matter to police.

It is understood he was approached the following day as he picked up his children from school and told to go to the alleyway or face exile from Northern Ireland.

Holy Cross priest Fr Gary Donegan told of the harrowing account given by Mrs McGibbon as she tended to her dying husband who was bleeding from a wound to an artery.

Police said that the victim had no criminal convictions and "no apparent criminal connections or associations".

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday issued a joint statement condemning the murder.

They said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young man at this time. The perpetrators of this attack have shown complete contempt for the local community and are trying to bring intimidation and fear onto the streets of north Belfast.

"We reject their agenda and actions and urge anyone with any information to bring it to the PSNI."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: "Once again a family has been plunged into mourning following a despicable murder. There are people out there who know who murdered Michael McGibbon and society demands that they speak out.

"There are no excuses for holding back otherwise the murderers will be free to inflict more pain in the future."

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