One of Northern Ireland’s most experienced journalists knew Jimmy Nesbitt as a trusted friend and confidant.
Recently retired Press Association (Ireland) editor Deric Henderson described the former senior detective as an “honourable man” who was deeply affected by his dealings with the Shankill Butchers.
Directed by DCI Nesbitt, the murder investigation team at Tennent Street tracked down most of the gang after interviewing a man who was abducted, tortured and left for dead.
Gerry McLaverty was seized and taken to a disused doctor’s surgery where he was interrogated and had his wrists slashed. Mr McLaverty was left for dead but survived. He was later taken on a tour of the Shankill and identified Sam McAllister as one of his captors. Mr McLaverty died in 2008.
The identification breakthrough eventually led to the imprisonment of other gang members - but the failure to convict their leader Lenny Murphy weighed heavily on the detective’s shoulders.
Mr Henderson said: “I think he sometimes found it difficult to talk about the Shankill Butchers. He certainly didn’t dine out on the fact that he was the man who was chiefly instrumental in locking them away. That day we stood by the graveside of Gerry McLaverty you could see the sadness in his eyes. Jimmy just wanted to be there to say his final farewell.
“He was an honourable and decent man; modest; a fine officer and a great detective who became a wonderful friend and confidant.”