Northern Ireland news

Devastated son of Jim Donegan says his father will 'forever be my hero'

Cris Donegan (right) shared the picture on social media of him with his father Jim

THE devastated son of a man murdered outside a school in west Belfast has described how he will "forever be my hero".

Cris Donegan paid a heartfelt tribute to his father Jim after he was gunned down outside St Mary's Grammar School on the Glen Road.

The 43-year-old, who had two sons and a stepson, was shot eight times in the head and the chest and died at the scene on Tuesday afternoon.

He was waiting to collect his youngest child (13) from school when the "barbaric assassination" happened.

His eldest son Cris has posted images of him with his father on social media, including an old photograph of the pair wearing Liverpool Football Club jerseys.

Jim Donegan with his son Cris

Another image of the father and son is accompanied with a tribute: "You'll never know just how proud I was to call you my daddy, you'll forever be my hero. Love you".

It comes as two men arrested in connection with Mr Donegan's death were released without charge.

The men, aged 49 and 51, were detained on Wednesday evening following a number of searches in the west Belfast area.

They were freed yesterday afternoon.

Mr Donegan was sitting in his Porsche when he was shot dead near both St Mary’s Grammar School and the Christian Brothers secondary school.

The brutal attack was carried out in front of dozens of pupils and their parents. Teachers shielded the car in which Mr Donegan sat from the view of children.

An uncle of Mr Donegan, who was not named, last night told UTV his nephew's murder was "absolutely heartbreaking for the whole family... but all we can do is stay strong for each other."

Murder victim: Jim JD Donegan with his wife Laura

He said the victim's son, who he was collecting from school when he was killed, was "getting plenty of support from the family...but he'll never get over it".

And he branded his nephew's death "an execution, it just wasn't a murder, at the end of the day murder is murder, he (the killer) knew exactly what he was coming up to do".

"Just please stop all the madness we don't want any other family to go through what we are suffering at the minute."

Read More: Wife of murder victim Jim Donegan pays touching tribute

Murder victim: Jim JD Donegan with his wife Laura

On Wednesday, police issued CCTV footage showing the unmasked killer.

Chilling images show the lone gunman - who was wearing a high-vis overcoat and a jacket with a hood - making his way to the scene and then fleeing a short time later.

Jim Donegan with his wife Laura on their wedding day

In the footage he can be seen walking along the Glen Road carrying a black drawstring bag, believed to contain the murder weapon.

Just minutes later, the killer is seen running back up Glen Road and along a lane into Clonelly Avenue - where he is captured on more CCTV footage - before he disappeared.

Police have not traced any getaway vehicle and they have declined to be drawn on what type of gun was used or confirm that Mr Donegan was under death threat or if he was known to police.

Sources say the victim may have found himself on the outskirts of the ongoing Dublin criminal feud.

Among his close friends is a man who is a known associate of the Gerry Hutch, known as 'The Monk'. The feud between the Hutch and Kinehan crime families has so far claimed at least 16 lives.

However, the PSNI have refused to say whether or not they had contacted An Garda Siochana for assistance in tracking Mr Donegan's killer.

They also said that dissident republican involvement would remain one line of investigation.

It is also understood that Mr Donegan was friends with Gerard Mackin, who is originally from the Whiterock area of west Belfast and has dissident links.

Murder victim Jim JD Donegan with his wife Laura.

Mackin was recently released from prison in the Republic after serving a sentence for his role in a "depraved and barbaric" assault in which a man was nailed to a kitchen floor with a nail-gun.

In 2008, he was jailed for life in Dublin for the murder of taxi driver Edward Burns and the attempted murder of Damien O'Neill at Bog Meadows off the Falls Road in 2007.

He fled to Dublin after the killing, but was later tried under the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act, which allows people to be charged in the Republic with crimes committed in Northern Ireland.

However, in 2010 the conviction was quashed by Dublin's Court of Criminal Appeal and a retrial ordered, but it collapsed after three days and Mackin was freed.

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