Murder victim 'probably killed in drugs row'

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A man murdered in north Belfast last night was probably the victim of a dispute over drugs, the MP for the area claimed today.

Nigel Dodds said the killing, which happened on the upper Crumlin Road, appeared unlikely to have been motivated by sectarian tensions.

The loyalist paramilitary grouping the Red Hand Defenders – a cover name for the Ulster Defence Association and Loyalist Volunteer Force – admitted responsibility for killing.

But Mr Dodds, a member of the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, said: "Having talked to some local people and to security forces, what I'm hearing is that it was not sectarian but that it was related to a dispute over drugs.

"That's all I'm hearing at the moment, and it seems to be a consistent line. But that is not to diminish the brutality of the murder."

The victim, who was in his 30s, was shot dead as he sat in a parked car close to a spot known locally as Beattie's Garage.

Two or three men emerged from a flight of steps, went to the parked silver Vauxhall Frontera and opened fire through the open driver's window.

A passenger sitting beside the victim was uninjured but was taken to hospital suffering from shock, police said.