Murdered resident of Belfast's Divis Tower James Hughes (62) was ‘gentle giant'

John Leatham, a neighbour of James Hughes (62), who was found dead in his flat at Divis Tower in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Gareth McKeown

A 62-YEAR-OLD man found murdered in a west Belfast tower block has been described as a "gentle giant".

The body of James (Seamus) Hughes was found in his flat on the 14th floor of Divis Tower when the alarm was raised shortly after 8pm on Sunday.

A 42-year-old man, also believed to be a Divis Tower resident, remained in custody on Monday night as police confirmed they were treating the case as murder.

The cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but it is the believed the victim was stabbed. A post-mortem is due to take place on Tuesday.

Mr Hughes, a practising Buddhist, had lived in the landmark building near the city city centre for several years and was well-known within the community.

A relative of hunger striker Brendan Hughes, who also lived in Divis Tower, he has been described by neighbours as a "gentle giant".

"James was a gentleman, he would have done anything for you," said John Leathem, chair of Divis Tower Falls Residents' Association.

"He was a man that would have helped people. He would have bought stuff like chocolate and would have shared it with people. He was a kind-hearted man.

"The whole scenario is just shocking. You have to think of two families here - one has lost a life and one is going to lose one by imprisonment for his actions."

Micheal Connolly of Falls Community Council said people in the tower had been left "numbed" by the tragedy.

"He was a very quiet man who kept himself to himself. The community just appears to be numb at why this had to happen to such a gentle giant.

"I do a community safety clinic in Divis Tower on a Monday and obviously that was the main topic today. People just can't get their heads around it that somebody has been murdered."

Sinn Féin councillor Mary McConville also described Mr Hughes as a "gentle person".

"He loved to talk and would sit and have a chat with you. He was just a nice person," she said.

A resident of Divis Tower, who did not want to be named, told the Irish News the death had shocked the tight-knit community.

"It's not something that happens in here, it might happen in the area, but not in here," he said

"I knew him just in passing, he wasn't a bad fella, quiet fella, he just pottered about and did his own thing."

Residents on the 14th and 16th floor of the Divis Tower were said to have been evacuated on Sunday night as police and forensic teams conducted their investigations.

They were allowed to return to their homes on Monday afternoon.

Police have confirmed they are "following a definite line of enquiry" and appealed to anyone on the 14th, 15th or 16th floors of Divis Tower with information to get in touch.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access