A father murdered in Belfast as part of a suspected criminal feud was shot through a bathroom door as his terrified son watched, police have said.
Stephen Carson, 28, was shot in the head in a house in the south of city last night after a gang of armed men broke in while he was eating dinner with his partner and nine-year-old son.
The victim, who had recently been released from prison, tried to hide in the bathroom of the Walmer Street house when the attackers forced entry, but they shot him with a shotgun through the door.
He sustained fatal injuries to his head, dying later in hospital.
Detectives said they believe the killing was potentially part of a criminal feud and said they are examining a potential link to a murder in west Belfast in 2013 when pizza delivery driver Kieran McManus was gunned down on Kennedy Way.
Officers do not think paramilitaries were involved in Mr Carson’s killing.
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Serious Crime Branch, said: “Our main line of inquiry, but not our only line of inquiry, is that Stephen was shot as part of a criminal feud.
“We do not believe at this stage there was any paramilitary involvement nor do we believe this was sectarian.”
He added: “This was a cold-blooded and brutal murder. These are not convenient labels to describe what happened last night. They are an honest opinion about the horrific events which took place in 77 Walmer Street. It is vital that Stephen Carson’s killers are caught and brought before the courts.”
Mr Geddes said Mr Carson’s partner and child had been left severely traumatised.
“If you think of a nine-year-old boy who had to see and listen to his dad being killed,” he said.
Police said at least three men carrying a hammer and a shotgun burst into the house and a confrontation ensued. Officers believe a fourth man may have been outside the house during the murder
The killers made their escape on foot in the direction of Haywood Avenue.
Police said they wanted to hear from:
:: Anyone who was in the area of Walmer street and Kimberly Street around 10:45pm on Thursday night;
:: Anyone who saw three or four men in that area around that time;
:: Anyone who saw any suspicious or strange behaviour at or near 77 Walmer Street on Thursday;
:: Anyone who saw a silver taxi, possibly a Mercedes, which was in Walmer Street at the time of the incident, around 10.45pm.