Don’t give in to thugs, urges father of murdered teen

THE father of a Belfast teenager who was stabbed to death last night urged members of the public to reclaim the streets from violent thugs.

Jim Devlin, whose 15-year-old son Thomas was knifed five times in the back in front of friends on Wednesday night, said his family had been plunged into a living hell by the brutal killing.

But he insisted the murder should not deter members of the public from going out in Belfast.

“People have to be in the streets, be in the villages and cities and take back what’s theirs,” Mr Devlin said.

“Thomas was the next generation coming up. He was across all the divides and taken away by someone who sought otherwise.”

The Belfast Royal Academy student was walking along the affluent Somerton Road on Wednesday night with two friends after buying sweets at a nearby petrol station when they were attacked. His 18-year-old friend was also injured, although not seriously, while a 16-year-old boy they were with escaped.

The killing, just days after a 15-year-old girl was subjected to a sadistic double rape in west Belfast, has shocked the city and prompted politicians to raise concerns about a rise in gratuitous attacks.

Police were last night still questioning two men and a teenager about the murder.

Although words were spoken between the boys and their attackers, police are still looking at a number of motives including that it could have been sectarian.

Thomas’s mother, Penny Holloway said her family was devastated by the attack.

“Thomas was just such a shining beacon in our lives and it’s gone and he’s not going to come back,” she said.

The murder was condemned by Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

“We have had this murder in a part of Belfast that has not had this type of thing before,” he said. “Coming on top of this horrific rape, we have got clearly to rebuild confidence and we are working on that.

“Meanwhile, our sympathy goes out to Thomas’s family.”

Mr Hain, however, faced calls from Ulster Unionist Assembly member Ken Robinson for legislation aimed at combating the knife culture to be introduced in Northern Ireland.

“While the Secretary of State’s expressions of sympathy clearly reflect the mood of society, in response to this tragedy, this community expects him to ensure that urgent and positive steps are taken to crack down on knife culture,” the East Antrim MLA said.

“Since arriving here, he has shown how he can react speedily in response to pressure. It is now incumbent upon him to listen to the heartfelt pleas of this society and take immediate steps to address a problem that is robbing young and old, male and female, of the opportunity to walk our streets and avenues free from fear.”

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