THE man who died following a “violent” incident in Belfast city centre was well known drug dealer Gerard ‘Mako’ McMahon.
‘Mako’ McMahon, who was in his 30s, was from the Short Strand estate in east Belfast.
Sources have told Belfast Daily the dead man was well known to police, Sinn Fein, the Provisional IRA and also dissident republicans in the area for his involvement in the poisonous narcotics street trade.
One source said “‘Mako’ was off his face on drugs”’ when an altercation broke out in Belfast’s ‘Golden Mile’ with a taxi driver in the early hours of yesterday morning.
‘Mako’ was said to have “cross community” connections with loyalists in north Belfast who are also involved in the drugs trade.
The Police Ombudsman confirmed last night that ‘Mako’ McMahon had died in hospital this evening where he was being treated for injuries.
In a statement on Thursday night, PSNI Belfast policing boss Chief Supt Chris Noble said: “Police wish to pass on our condolences to the family of the deceased.”
Today, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has called for a swift investigation into McMahon’s death.
“I have been in touch with senior police today about the circumstances which led to Gerard being rushed to hospital.
“The Police Ombudsman has already launched an investigation into the detention of Gerard McMahon.
“That investigation must be thorough so that his grieving family get the full facts as quickly as possible about the circumstances which led to his death.”
The Ombudsman’s office has said it is believed CS spray was used by PSNI officer during the incident on Great Victoria Street in the early hours of Thursday.
One theory is the victim – who was seen in the area in his underwear – may have sustained a head injury during the violent incident.
PONI investigators are trawling CCTV footage to pinpoint how the injury was sustained.
It is alleged ‘Mako’ McMahon got into a dispute with a taxi driver and allegedly struck the car with a parking cone.
Part of the city centre had been cordoned off by police.
Officers said they were called to Great Victoria Street shortly before 5 am after a report that a man had become violent.
Witnesses said the man was dressed only in his underwear and had been behaving erratically.
Paul Murphy, senior investigating officer with the Police Ombudsman’s Office, said they were contacted about the incident by police at about 6.20 am.
“That incident related to a male who had apparently had an altercation with a number of taxi drivers,” he said.
“Police had responded and arrested that male.
“At some point during the arrest it appeared that CS spray was used.
“The male in question, his condition had deteriorated, he was then subsequently taken to hospital where his condition is now described as critical.”
He said “restraints” had also been used by police during the arrest.
Mr Murphy said a number of witnesses had come forward and some CCTV footage had been collected.
However, he appealed for anyone else who may have been at the scene to contact the ombudsman’s office.
“This is now a Police Ombudsman investigation, so the Police Ombudman’s Office will now take primacy and we’ll conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest and also the condition of the male in question,” he added.
A defibrillator was left at the scene beside the Grand Opera House.