GARDAÍ described the victim of a fatal stabbing in Tipperary town on Friday night as “a gentleman” and have appealed for the public’s help.
Father-of-four Willie Stokes, 47, was stabbed by two men who set upon him while he was sitting in his van with his 12-year-old son at about 6pm on Friday.
His family says he is aninnocent man caught up in an increasingly vicious Traveller feud.
Mr Stokes, a horse dealer who lived in the town, managed to kick out at his attackers and tried to drive off after doing a U-turn, but slumped down in the driver’s seat after massive blood loss and crashed his van on Bridge Street.
He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
Four people are being questioned in relation to the fatal stabbing.
A man in his 20s who was arrested on Saturday in connection with the death has been released without charge.
Local detectives in Tipperary and investigators from Dublin and Waterford are examining the theory that Mr Stokes was targeted as he was connected to one of the factions in an escalating Traveller’s feud in Waterford.
The killing is believed to be related to a violent assault in a chip shop in Waterford last weekend during which axes were used.
The Waterford feud is understood to have begun in July 2008 when a bare-knuckle fight between rival Traveller families escalated and resulted in further assaults, arson, criminal damage and car rammings along with numerous shootings.
Over 100 feud-related incidents were logged with dozens of arrests being made by gardaí.
Three horses had to be put down after being mutilated in two attacks where their legs were almost totally severed by swords.
A dozen Waterford city council houses were damaged in petrol bombings and other attacks, causing hundreds of thousands of euro of damage.
Mr Stokes had never come to the attention of gardaí before and was not involved in any feud.
Heartbroken wife of the slain man Helen Stokes said her life has been destroyed.
“He was everything to me. Everything. My husband was my life,” she said.
“We were in peace for all our lives and now this one horrible act has destroyed our lives. It has turned our lives upside down.”
The Tipperary Rural Traveller Project has said it is “disgusted” by Mr Stokes’s death.
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