DETECTIVES investigating the murder of drug dealer Kevin Kearney have arrested a 39-year-old man.
The suspect was detained by officers from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch probing the killing by shadowy dissident republican terror group calling itself the ‘New IRA’
He has been taken to the serious crime suite in Antrim for questioning.
The body of father-of-four Kevin Kearney was found in a lake in Alexandra Park, off the Antrim Road, on Wednesday afternoon at 3.30 pm.
Detectives involved in the murder hunt say he was shot at around 9.15 am on Tuesday.
Mr Kearney, 46, of Dunmore Avenue, had gone missing the previous day and his partner raised the alarm when his dogs returned home without him.
A post mortem examination revealed he had been shot after suffering a beating at the hands of his killers.
Well know drug dealer Kearney left his daughter off at school on Tuesday morning, and returned home and took his dogs for a walk in Alexandra Park.
In a statement to The Irish News, the ‘New IRA’ admitted responsibility for the murder stating it had “executed” Kearney in response from complaints from the local community.
It also warned other drug dealers to “desist immediately”.
Police described the killing as “callous and cold-blooded murder”.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, who is heading up the murder inquiry, said that Mr Kearney “was known to the police”.
“Kevin was known to us for previous offending.
“But what I want to make clear is regardless of Kevin’s lifestyle, regardless of his previous offending, there is no justification whatsoever for someone to shoot him dead as they did.”
Police have appealed for information on a silver Peugeot 406 car, registration number GNZ 8168.
It was found burnt out in Dunore Court in the New Lodge area of north Belfast at about 09:30 on Tuesday morning.
Detectives also want to hear from anyone who was in the park between 08:30 and 09:30 on Tuesday.
DCI Galloway added: “We are aware of the claim of responsibility and that is forming part of my investigation and it is a line of inquiry.
“Kevin has been going about his normal routine so there is an element of targeting. He has been shot in a callous and brutal way.
“It is important that we identify witnesses, recover the firearm that was used, and we can only do that with the cooperation of the people of north Belfast, which I have to say to date has been fantastic.”
The murder has been condemned by local politicians.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said that the local community is shocked about a murder inquiry in the area.
The DUP MP said: “The police have confirmed that a body was found this afternoon in the water at Alexandra Park.
“The body was found in suspicious circumstances and the police have launched a murder investigation.
The entire community will share in the sense of shock at this appalling news. I understand that the identity of the deceased is known to the police.
“Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased. I appeal for anyone who can assist the police investigation to pass on whatever information they have,” he added.