Four arrested over fatal shooting in Belfast
Four men have been arrested following a fatal shooting in Belfast.
The victim was shot a number of times at close range at a house on Etna Drive in the Ardoyne area shortly before noon on Saturday and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A burned-out car was found nearby.
He was named locally as Robbie Lawlor (35), a member of a crime gang based in Drogheda, Co Louth.
Lawlor was a suspect in several gangland murders including that of Keane Mulready Woods, the 17-year-old whose dismembered body was found in Dublin in January.
He had more than 100 previous convictions.
The PSNI said on Saturday evening that three men have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
A fourth man was later arrested overnight.
All four men remain in custody at Musgrave PSNI station in Belfast.
Earlier, Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said he was “astounded by the recklessness of the killer or killers”.
He added: “Not only did they carry out this callous murder, leaving a family experiencing their worst nightmare, but they did not care that children and other members of this north Belfast community were placed at risk.
“Murder is a heinous crime and killing someone during this global coronavirus pandemic is sickening when people are trying to adjust to living a new way and trying to cope with the pressures this brings.
“Those involved in this murder selfishly gave no thought to the impact on front-line emergency services who are already working hard to keep people safe with an already stretched resource.”
Mr Murphy said it was too early to speculate on the motive and he was following “a number of lines of inquiry”.
He added: “A light-coloured car, registration YLZ 7052, was found burned out in nearby Kingston Court and I am currently seeking to establish what relevance this car has to my investigation.
“I know the community is in shock at the moment but I would appeal to anyone who has information about this appalling murder to bring that information forward to the police.
“I am aware the area was busy with pedestrians and people out in their front gardens, so I am asking anyone who may have captured any footage of the incident to please make that available to us. I have activated the Major Incident Public Portal which can be accessed at mipp.police.uk.
“The investigation team can be contacted by calling 101, quoting reference 562 of April 4.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the killing was “an abhorrent and brutal crime, for which there is no excuse”.
Stormont justice minister Naomi Long also condemned the “senseless murder”, and offered her sympathies to the man’s family.
There was a heavy police presence in the area on Saturday afternoon, with lines of Land Rovers sealing off both ends of the street.
Mr Lewis added: “This type of justice is never, and will never, be a substitute for policing and the force of law.
“This cowardly act is particularly thoughtless at a time when our front-line emergency services are already working incredibly hard to keep us all safe while dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I strongly encourage anyone who has information about this despicable crime to come forward and speak to the PSNI.”
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: “I would appeal for calm at this time in the area and stress that anybody with any information about this horrific incident should bring it immediately to the PSNI.
“Actions like this have no place in our society and I repeat my condemnation of those involved.
“At a time when all front-line statutory agencies and indeed communities are doing what they can to fight against Covid-19, this just adds to the suffering unfortunately being experienced by local people at this time.”
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said the incident has caused shock in the area.
He said: “A man was shot in a garden in this community in broad daylight.
“It’s hard to describe how traumatic this has been for people who were going about their business.
“My thoughts are with this man’s family at an incredibly difficult time.”