05 February 2006

Dissident linked to knife killing

Sunday Life

Stephen Breen
05 February 2006

A leading renegade republican was last night being linked to the brutal murder of a father-of-six in west Belfast.

Senior security sources say a top Real IRA man - who served time in prison for arms offences - was responsible for the killing of Gerard Devlin.

The 40-year-old died after a knife was plunged into his chest following a row in the Whitecliff Parade area of Ballymurphy, on Friday afternoon.

The clash was linked to a long-standing dispute between Mr Devlin and the Notorantonio family, which dates back 10 years.

A number of attempts at mediation between the families were held last week and Mr Devlin had agreed to leave the area.

But he was attacked when he went back to Ballymurphy to collect his children for the weekend.

Two of the murder victim's relatives - Tony McCabe and Thomas Loughran - were also injured in the vicious attack.

It is understood a sword was plunged into the back of one of the injured men.

Part of the sword is believed to have remained in his chest as he was rushed to hospital.

We know the identity of the suspected killer, but cannot publish it for legal reasons.

The dissident is not one of the two men who were quizzed by cops yesterday about the murder.

Six houses in the Ballymurphy area were also searched by cops probing the killing.

And we can reveal pals of the killer threw bottles at the home of Mr Devlin's grandmother shortly after his killing.

They also taunted Mr Devlin's family by chanting: "One down and many more to go."

Local community leaders were also set to meet with the Notorantonio family to discuss the murder.

Said a local source: "A pal of the dissident challenged Gerard Devlin to a fight and when Gerard was getting the better of him, the dissident and his team jumped in.

"There would have been more deaths had it not been for the local community workers who were trying to calm the situation.

"Tensions are still very high and people in the entire district are blaming this dissident for the murder. He's nothing but a thug."

Added local Sinn Fein councillor Marie Cush: "The community is shocked but not surprised that this has happened.

"The Notorantonio family were saying the other night that they were being persecuted, but I would like to ask them who are the victims now?

"The community is very angry at this murder and are just hoping that no one else loses their life."

sbreen@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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