Man shot dead in paramilitary-style 'execution'

The murder of a man shot dead in the North bore the brutal hallmarks of a paramilitary-style killing, politicians said today.

The victim, thought to be in his 30s, had his hands tied and was found on a country road outside Derry after being shot at close range.

Police appealed for help in identifying the murdered man. Fears were growing that dissident republicans violently opposed to the peace process may be responsible, but their involvement has yet to be confirmed.

The man's body was found by a member of the public at 10.30pm yesterday on the Braehead Road close to the border with Co Donegal.

The body was found at the rear of a Christian retreat centre, with local clergy saying it was particularly poignant that a horrific murder had been discovered near a place of prayer.

As witnesses described the murder scene as "horrific", MP for the area Mark Durkan said: "The people of Derry will be disgusted and appalled to learn of this murder.

"This morning, I attended the scene of where the body was found and I have spoken to the police about this horrific killing.

"On behalf of the SDLP, I totally and absolutely condemn this brutal and crude murder, which is a throwback to the very worst of our past."

Mr Durkan said the killing echoed the so-called "execution" murders carried out by the IRA during the Troubles.

Detectives have appealed for help to identify the murdered man, described as 6ft, with receding brown hair and aged 35 to 40.

A priest who visited the area where the body was discovered, Fr Stephen McLaughlin, said: "It's a scene that's quite hard to take in.

"The immediate feeling you have is one of utter revulsion, it is sickening.

"We thought certainly that these sort of things were not going to be part of our future.

"It was a just chilling scene, a man left, obviously murdered, at the side of a quiet country road."

Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson said people who discovered the body called emergency services and a sheet was placed over the murdered man when it became clear he was dead.

Police placed a forensic tent over the scene and officers have started a search of the area.

A motive for the murder has yet to be identified and there has been no claim of responsibility from a paramilitary group.

Ms Anderson said: "The people that I have spoken to in my community, and I would say the vast majority of people across the island of Ireland, would be absolutely shocked and condemn outright what happened."

She said she was unaware of the victim's identity, but added: "What we do know is that there is a family out there who is going to be hearing some shocking news, and I think all of our thoughts and sympathy would be with that family.

"It is wrong. There is no place for this in our society. We all want the gun to be taken out of our community. We are absolutely disgusted with what happened last night."

She said of the killers: "How dare they?"

Ms Anderson told the BBC that emergency services dealt with the horrific scene in a caring and sensitive way.

Eamonn McCann, of the People Before Profit political group, said the shooting was likely to have been committed by paramilitaries.

"This is dreadful and infinitely depressing news to wake up to," he said. "People Before Profit condemns this killing outright."

Mr McCann added: "Paramilitary violence of this sort is not just wrong in terms of political morality but is a distraction from, and an obstacle to, any real remedy for our ills.

"We call on those responsible to stop."

Democratic Unionist MP Gregory Campbell condemned the shooting.

"The brutal murder of a young man on the outskirts of Londonderry on Wednesday evening must be condemned. I extend my sympathy to the family involved and those who have lost a friend and loved one," he said.

"It bears a remarkable similarity to murders by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and others during the troubles. In fact, the PIRA murdered two Protestant civilians in the early days of their violence and used this area to dump those bodies.

"Whilst there is much talk of stopping those responsible from dragging us back to the past, this can only be the case if the community gives whatever information they have to the police. It is only full cooperation between the police and the community that can bring the perpetrators before the courts.

"There now needs to be a vigorous response by the police to the upsurge in violence in a number of areas. Such swift police action must have the total support of all public representatives."

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