DETECTIVES investigating the murder of Stephen Carson at Walmer Street in south Belfast on Thursday 25th February have arrested three men on suspicion of murder.
The men – aged 32, 37 and 39 – were arrested following searches in west Belfast on Friday evening.
A firearm was recovered and has been sent for forensic tests.
The men remain in custody being questioned by detectives from the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team.
Police believed Stephen Carson was gunned down in cold blood as a result of a “criminal feud”.
The victim was well known to police had been released from jail last year on robbery charges.
At approximately 10.45pm on Thursday night, Stephen Carson was sitting in his home at 77 Walmer Street with his partner and his nine-year-old son.
As they were enjoying a takeaway meal, at least three men carrying a hammer and a shotgun burst into the house and there was a confrontation.
He ran into the downstairs bathroom but the shotgun was fired through the bathroom door and he sustained a head injury which proved to be fatal.
His 26 year old partner and his nine-year-old son were left in the house as the killers made their escape on foot in the direction of Haywood Avenue.
A fourth man may have been outside the house during the murder.
His partner and son were not physically injured but they have been severely traumatised.
Police have conducted a search of a nearby house this morning and our enquiries are continuing.
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes from Serious Crime Branch, said:
“Our main line of enquiry, but not our only line of enquiry, is that Stephen was shot as part of a criminal feud. We do not believe at this stage there was any paramilitary involvement nor do we believe this was sectarian.
“I have a number of appeals. I want to hear from:
• Anyone who was in the area of Walmer street and Kimberly Street around 10:45pm on Thursday night.
• Anyone who saw three or four men in that area around that time.
• Anyone who saw any suspicious or strange behaviour at or near 77 Walmer Street on Thursday.
• Anyone who saw a silver taxi, possibly a Mercedes, which was in Walmer Street at the time of the incident around 10:45pm.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives at Ladas Drive on the non-emergency number 101.
Alternatively, anyone who does not want to provide their details can phone the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Detective Superintendent Geddes said: “This was a cold-blooded and brutal murder.
“These are not convenient labels to describe what happened last night.
“They are an honest opinion about the horrific events which took place in 77 Walmer Street.
“It is vital that Stephen Carson’s killers are caught and brought before the courts.”