The murder of a father of nine in a suspected bloody feud between former IRA members was a “ruthless and premeditated” killing, a senior detective has said.
Ex-republican prisoner Kevin McGuigan, 53, was gunned down at point blank range in front of his wife Dolores by two masked men outside the couple’s home in the republican Short Strand area of Belfast on Wednesday night.
Mr McGuigan was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of former IRA leader Gerard “Jock” Davison in the nearby Markets area of Belfast three months ago.
This has triggered widespread speculation the murder was a revenge attack carried out by Mr Davison’s erstwhile associates in the IRA. If IRA involvement was proven there would be major implications for the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Stormont’s First Minister Peter Robinson has warned Sinn Féin it would face expulsion from the power-sharing executive if the IRA was responsible. However, Sinn Féin has vehemently rejected the suggestion of IRA involvement.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, has revealed Mr McGuigan was spoken to by detectives probing the Davison murder, but as a witness not a suspect. However, he did not go so far as to rule him out as a suspect.
Earlier, he said: “I am well aware of the speculation throughout the Jock Davison investigation and what has been circulating in relation to Kevin.
“I would say that those who have that belief that Kevin was involved in Jock Davison’s murder, anybody who can link him should contact detectives at Musgrave Street (PSNI station) and tell us why they believe so and produce me the evidence to back up that claim.” The IRA has been on ceasefire since 1997 and decommissioned its weapons in 2005. Mr McVea said it was too early to say if any paramilitary group was involved in the murder.
“It would be reckless to speculate at this time as to the attribution of this murder,” he said.
It is understood Mr McGuigan had fallen out with former colleagues in the IRA a number of years ago. Between then and his murder he had also been shot in a paramilitary punishment style attack.
Around 9pm on Wednesday night the two gunmen approached their victim on foot in the Comber Court area of the Short Strand and shot him repeatedly in the head and chest. The killers, who were wearing dark clothes, ran off.
Amid fears of an escalation of violence, Mr McVea called for “calm and restraint” within the community.
“This was a ruthless and premeditated killing carried out in front of Mr McGuigan’s wife Dolores outside their home,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey denied the IRA was involved. He branded such speculation “unhelpful and unwelcome”.
“I have no concerns about any IRA involvement in this whatsoever,” he said. “I don’t accept that the IRA has been involved in this, it just does not register at all.”
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