07 February 2006

Police move in to prevent escalation of violence


By Jonathan McCambridge
07 February 2006

A heavy police presence was evident in west Belfast today amid fears of an escalation of a bitter family feud following the murder of a father of six.

There have now been nine reported attacks in the Whitecliff and Ballymurphy areas following the fatal stabbing of Gerard Devlin, who died as he was picking up his children on Friday afternoon.

Two men, aged 21 and 53, were today due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court charged with murdering Mr Devlin.

There were another two overnight attacks in the area which police are linking to a family feud.

A house was extensively damaged by a petrol bomb at Ballymurphy Parade and a vehicle was set on fire at Rock Grove.

Police earlier said a house at Whitecliff Parade had been targeted twice yesterday, despite being singled out by arsonists on Sunday.

The attacks occurred at properties just yards from where Mr Devlin died.

Two further homes in Whitecliff Parade were also set on fire yesterday and there have also been attacks in the nearby Dermot Hill area.

Police are treating all of the incidents as arson and believe they are linked.

However, it is believed that there may be more incidents which have not been reported to police.

There was no-one at home in any of the properties which have been attacked this morning and neighbours said they did not want to talk about the deteriorating situation.

However one man, who did not want to be named, said: "It is very tense here today, you are just waiting for the next attack because this thing is getting worse."

Mr Devlin's aunt, Bernadette O'Rawe, earlier said her family wanted the violence to end.

She said: "We condemn what is going on here with these houses burning and shops burning, we are not responsible."

There were a number of police Land-Rovers in the Ballymurphy Estate this morning guarding several of the properties which have been attacked.

Fire crews were also attacked as they attended some of the blazes near where Mr Devlin was murdered.

He had left the area following a family feud and had been building a new home for his family in the Co Antrim village of Glenavy.

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