Jim Donegan murdered outside school gates in west Belfast on Tuesday

DETECTIVES investigating the murder of a wealthy drug dealer outside a west Belfast school have released two men arrested for questioning about the assassinstion.

Jim Donegan, 43, was shot in his car as he waited for his 13-year-old son near St Mary’s Grammar School on Tuesday.

The men -aged 49 and 51 were arrested on Wednesday evening came after police carried out searches in west Belfast.

The suspects are members of a violent dissident republican vigilante group who target drug dealers.

They have been taken to the serious crime custody suite in Belfast for questioning.

The PSNI say this evening that both men have now been released “unconditionally”.

Anyone arrested under the Terrorism Act cannot be released on bail.

They are either charged or released unconditionally.

Donegan was blasted eight times as he sat in his £80,000 flame red Porsche Panamera car with his personalised number plates of ‘JDZ 34’.

The gunman, dressed a hi vis jacket, was captured on CCTV walking to and running from the scene.

Speaking at a news conference in Belfast on Wednesday afternoon, Det Ch Insp Peter Montgomery of the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team described it as a “barbaric assassination”.

The DCI said: “Jim  was a husband, a brother, a father to 2 sons and a stepfather.

“Yesterday, as the school bell was ringing, a lone gunman shot Jim, as he sat in his car waiting to pick up his 13 year old son.

“Hundreds of children were pouring out of the 3 schools in the Glen Road area of West Belfast at the time – many of them witnessing the assassination of the father of two.  Jim’s son was spared from this thankfully but only by a few seconds.

“Mums, dads, grandparents, young siblings, and people in the community also saw the brutal slaying. The callous actions of the gunman will have catastrophic psychological effects on them all.

The gunman flees the Glen Road murder scene dressed in a hi vis jacket

“Children who moments before were no doubt enjoying Christmas activities in class, maybe practising for their Christmas concert or school nativity, will no longer be dreaming about Santa or presents.

“Instead they will be having nightmares about a murder in broad daylight outside their school.

“A place which should be a safe haven to learn and grow.

“The gunman walked past these children and fired a weapon 8 times.

“It is utter madness as any one of these bullets could have ricocheted and having been at the scene I cannot emphasise enough that it is sheer luck I am not investigating multiple fatalities.

“Today I am releasing CCTV footage of the gunman on his way to carry out the murder and as he flees the scene.

“He is captured wearing a high visibility, hip-length yellow jacket, with ‘Security’ written on the back, dark bottoms, with a grey coloured hat or hood and carrying a black or dark bag over his shoulder.

“I believe the gun was in this bag. He emerged from a lane in Clonelly Avenue onto the Glen Road around 3.10pm, walked past countless parents and children, before firing 8 bullets at Jim while he sat outside the school in his red Porsche Panamera, registration JDZ34.

Jim Donegan shot eight times as he sat in his flame red Porsche Panamera car

“Around 2 minutes later, after the murder, he ran back up Glen Road and along the lane into Clonelly Avenue.

“I would like to hear from anyone who saw the gunman during these times.

“I am appealing to the community’s to help identify who murdered Jim and put the lives of countless children at risk.

“I would also like to thank the local people of West Belfast for their help in the last 24 hours and ask anyone who has information or dashcam footage to contact detectives in Musgrave Street on 101,” added DCI Montgomery.

Pupils will be offered counselling when the school reopens today, Thursday, December 6.

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