Northern Ireland

Murder of Lurgan father-of-four Shane Whitla branded 'brutal' as police launch investigation

Murder victim Shane Whitla
Murder victim Shane Whitla

A MURDER inquiry is underway after a man was shot dead in Lurgan - the second person killed in the Co Armagh town in less than a month.

Father-of-four Shane Whitla's body was found at Lord Lurgan Park on Thursday evening.

Police said the 39-year-old was shot a number of times, including once in the back.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell last night branded the murder "brutal" and moved to quell speculation linking Mr Whitla's killing to that of Natalie McNally in the town last month.

"I am aware of speculation in the local community that this may be linked to the murder of Natalie McNally here in Lurgan before Christmas," he said.

"This is not the case and police are not investigating any links between these two murders."

 DCI John Caldwell at yesterday press conference at Lurgan PSNI station.Picture by Hugh Russell.
DCI John Caldwell at yesterday press conference at Lurgan PSNI station.Picture by Hugh Russell.

The PSNI said Mr Whitla was known to police and said he was working to establish a motive for his murder.

Asked if there was any paramilitary or organised crime involvement he said "there are several lines of inquiry ongoing at the minute".

The detective said police were working to establish the movements of Mr Whitla before his murder and the location where he was shot.

"Enquiries are ongoing to establish where the attack site was," he said.

He confirmed a cordoned off area in the Lake Street district of Lurgan is linked to the investigation.

Police also said that an officer sustained injuries when responding to the initial call but refused to provide any more details.

A 29-year-old man was arrested in Lurgan on Thursday and remained in custody last night.

The Ambulance Service said it received a 999 call at 8.11pm after reports of an incident.

Two emergency crews were then dispatched to the scene.

Mr Whitla was from a well known family in the north Armagh area.

His murder is the second to rock the tight-knit Lurgan community in recent weeks.

Natalie McNally, who was 15 weeks pregnant, was stabbed in her home in Silverwood Green on December 18.

Natalie McNally
Natalie McNally

It is understood she had also been beaten and strangled.

A 46-year-old man arrested in south Belfast as part of the investigation remained in custody last night.

SDLP councillor Declan McAlinden said: "It's worrying that guns are still on our streets.

"Times have moved on and guns should play no part in our society.

"Anybody who has any issues should go to the PSNI.

Mr McAlinden spoke of the loss suffered in Lurgan in recent weeks.

"It's been a tough few weeks for people in the Lurgan area with the murder of Natalie McNally and now Shane Whitla," he said.

A £20,000 reward has been offered by Crimestoppers for information about the murder.