Shankill Butchers detective Jimmy Nesbitt dies after short illness

Shankill Butchers.
Shankill Butchers.

The former senior detective who led the hunt for the notorious Shankill Butchers gang has died after a short illness.

Jimmy Nesbitt said his team did “everything possible” to stop the murders and was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues and others who knew him.

Belfast-born author Martin Dillon wrote a book on the 1970s UVF killing spree - later describing the former detective chief inspector as “a very special individual”.

Having joined the RUC in 1955, the young constable spent his early service in Co Londonderry before joining Tennent Street CID and rising through the ranks.

He is reputed to have been awarded the highest number of chief constable’s commendations (67) in the history of UK policing.

Following promotion to CID Tennent Street, D/S Nesbitt would forge a reputation as one of the most capable investigators of his generation.

“Nesbitt is a very special individual, there’s no doubt about it,” Martin Dillon told the News Letter in 2011.

“Jimmy never really gives himself much praise but I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. I met him and the guys that worked with him when I was researching the book [The Shankill Butchers].

“It’s too easy to demonise the detectives involved and say they could have done better and more at the time but nothing was easy,” he said.

Also speaking to the News Letter in 2011, Mr Nesbitt said a BBC documentary broadcast at that time left out much of his own tribute to his fellow officers who helped bring the “savages” to justice.

“I told them [the programme makers] that I worked with a team of totally dedicated, highly professional and experienced detectives who sacrificed their personal lives and their family lives to carry out these investigations — and that a seven-day working week was the norm and an 18-hour day not unusual,” he said.

“We couldn’t have done any more,” to prevent activities of such a tight-knit and feared gang, Mr Nesbitt added.