Northern Ireland news

Conor McKee killers appeared to have local knowledge

Police returned to Glenpark Street in north Belfast to appeal for information two weeks after the murder of 31-year-old Conor McKee

Gunmen who murdered father-of two Conor McKee, in what is now thought to have been a paramilitary-style shooting, appeared to have had local knowledge of the area.

The 31-year-old was blasted with a shotgun at his Glenpark Street home in north Belfast two weeks ago.

His body was discovered in an upstairs bedroom by his mother.

Mr McKee had been on bail for serious drugs offences at the time of his death, and his family have said he was battling a heroin addiction.

Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, who is leading the investigation, said yesterday the victim had been shot a "number of times" with a shotgun.

He also said police were investigating a link between "paramilitaries and individuals linked to organised crime" and the murder.

"We're following two main lines of enquiry, one of which is the involvement of paramilitaries, another line regarding people who are associated with organised crime in the city.

"Conor's murder is drugs related - whether that's related in the regards to a so-called punishment shooting by paramilitaries, well that's a definite line of enquiry."

He added: "If you go into someone's house and into their bedroom with a shotgun and use it, that's not going to solve the drug problem in Belfast, history shows us that.

"Just because Conor was involved in drugs does not mean the police service will walk away from what happened to him, or his mum, his dad, his partner and their children."

Police said they have interviewed more than 100 witnesses, visited over 250 homes and conducted four searches.

Officers revisited the scene on Thursday night to speak to pedestrians in an attempt to trace further eye witnesses. An electronic display sign was also placed on the Oldpark Road appealing for information.

Mr McKee was last seen in the area of Oldpark Road between 5pm and 6pm on Thursday January 7. It is thought he was shot at his home at 6.15pm.

Officers want to hear from anyone who may have seen a man lurking in an alleyway beside Mr McKee's Glenpark Street home around the time of the shooting.

The man was wearing a dark-coloured hoodie with a front pocket open at both ends and other dark clothing.

Mr Galloway dismissed any suggestion that eastern European gangs were involved in the murder, saying those responsible appeared to know the area.

"It is my assessment there is a high degree of local knowledge", he said.

"We are not seeing a car burnt out anywhere or destroyed in another part of the city for example, so a definite line of enquiry is the local knowledge that seems to have been displayed.

"We are following a line of enquiry in regards to republican paramilitaries. Speculation as to what grouping or individuals aligned to a grouping isn't helpful to the investigation."

Two people arrested as part of the murder investigation remain on bail pending further inquiries.

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