A murder inquiry was under way today after the killing of a civilian who worked on an army base in Belfast.
David Cupples, 25, from east Belfast, died in hospital on Christmas Day after being found lying in a north Belfast street suffering from serious head injuries at the weekend.
He had been walking to work at the Girdwood army base when he was attacked in nearby Clifton Park Avenue. Minutes earlier he had been dropped off from a car around the corner.
Police said the vicious assault took place close to the north Belfast interface between nationalist and loyalist communities and a sectarian motive for the murder of the Protestant worker had not been ruled out.
But Detective Superintendent Hugo Frew said there had also been considerable activity linked to the loyalist feud in the area and police were investigating both possibilities as a motive for the murder.
“We are keeping an open mind at the moment,” he said.
Mr Cupples, who lived at Farmhurst Way in the Braniel Estate, was found lying in Clifton Park Avenue just after 7am on Sunday morning minutes after being dropped off outside the Mater Hospital in the Crumlin Road.
It was only a short distance from the Girdwood army base where he worked.
A resident in Clifton Park Avenue spotted the injured man lying in the street and raised the alarm.
Superintendent Frew said he would appeal to anyone in the Clifton Park Avenue area between 6.30am and 7am on Sunday morning to contact police.
He said police were particularly keen to speak to the driver of a dark taxi which went up the Clifton Park Road shortly before 7am and returned the same way shortly afterwards, and also the driver of a light coloured hatchback car which drove along the road in the direction of the Crumlin Road at about the same time.
Condemning the attack, he said Mr Cupples was a well liked young man whose main interest in life was rock music.
“His family are totally devastated at what happened. A death at any time of year is hard to bare, but at this particular time of the year it is particularly tragic,” he said.