EXCLUSIVE: DETECTIVES investigating the weekend cold blooded murder of a pizza delivery driver believe it is linked to a three-year-old feud between the victim and dissident republicans.
Kieran McManus was shot dead on Saturday night by a lone masked gunman at close range.
The 26-year-old, a delivery driver for Domino’s pizza, was shot outside shops in Kennedy Way as he stood with three friends.
Belfast Daily can reveal that McManus was is just recently out of prison.
In February 2010, he and his brother were attempted murder after an attack on a man in Turf Lodge.
Police said the man temporarily lost his sight and hearing, and had to undergo major surgery to reconstruct his arm after the incident on Friday.
Joseph McManus, 24, and Kieran McManus, then 23, of Norglen Parade, who denied the charges, were accused of trying to kill Michael Smith.
The victim is believed to have been attacked with a sword or a machete.
The brothers each face further charges of affray and threatening to kill another man, Edward Devine.
Both were also accused of possessing offensive weapons – Kieran McManus a bladed instrument and Joseph McManus a wooden baton.
Joseph McManus faces an additional charge of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Edward Devine.
They were remanded in custody to appear again after no bail application was made at Belfast Magistrates Court.
A detective sergeant who said he could connect them with the offences, confirmed both suspects denied the charges during interviews.
The court heard counter-allegations have been made that they were themselves assaulted, with three car-loads of men said to have arrived at the scene.
It was alleged that one of those on “the other side” claimed to be from the Continuity IRA, and another from the Oglaigh na hEireann grouping.
The detective stressed the seriousness of the victim’s wounds, and produced a photograph of the car which transported him to hospital.
He told the court: “His injuries were such that had he been delayed in getting to hospital a few minutes later, hospital staff have informed us he would almost certainly have died.”
The victim was said to have lost hearing and sight for a time, and initially declined to speak to police.
“The update is that he had to undergo eight hours of surgery to reconstruct his arm and is going under further surgery today,” the officer added.
Photographs and DNA samples are to be taken from him as part of the investigation, the court heard.
During questioning, defence solicitor Michael Crawford disclosed that men claiming to be from the Continuity IRA have put the accused’s mother and sister out of their home.
The officer confirmed he was aware of further incidents over the weekend which would be probed.
Detectives believe Saturday night’s murder is linked to the court case.
It is believed father-of-one McManus, who lived in the Belfast area and was known to police, was shot a number of times by the lone attacker as he was placing a pizza delivery into the rear of his car.
He was pronounced dead in hospital a short time later.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Karen Baxter, who is leading the murder hunt, said: “Kieran worked for Domino’s as a delivery person but last night whilst he was working he was also accompanied by three young friends.
“He was with those three young friends when the attack occurred. He was standing, we believe, outside of the vehicle and shot at short range.
“What happened in Kennedy Way last night was a brutal and ruthless attack which has no place in society.”
A dark coloured car was seen speeding from the scene.
During follow up inquiries, a dark red Astra believed to be linked to the murder was later found burnt out a short distance away in Denewood Park.
“We are keeping an open mind to the motive at this time and we are working on a number of lines of enquiry,” DCI Baxter said.
She added: “We are specifically appealing for anyone who may have been in the area around this time last night and who may have witnessed any specific activity or vehicles in the area.
“We are particularly appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the dark coloured Vauxhall Astra car seen leaving the area around the time of the murder or who may have seen it in the Denewood Park area.
“Those responsible for this ruthless murder will only be brought before the courts and put behind bars if people with information work with police.”
The senior officer said the victim’s friends were not physically hurt, but were left “desperately shocked” by the attack.
“This is a tragic, tragic situation,” she added.
Justice Minister David Ford said his thoughts were with the victim’s family.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms this callous murder. There can be no cause that can justify the taking of a precious human life and no excuse can explain the suffering that results.
He added: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the family of this young man and also my prayers.”
Local Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said those responsible “should be ashamed” and said people in the community have been shocked by the killing.
“A young man was going about his work and somebody has decided that they will take his life from him.
“We are now left with a family without a son, without a brother, and I think it’s totally unacceptable and totally shocking.”
West Belfast SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said: “I condemn the terrible death of a young man on Kennedy Way late last night.
“At a time of hope in the Christian calendar, this murder is all the more appalling. The sympathy of all will go to a deeply grieving family.”