Alleged drug dealer 'hacked to death' in loyalist Kilcooley estate

 

Loyalist paramilitaries are thought to have been responsible for an alleged drug dealer being "hacked to death in the street" by a gang.

Police are keeping an open mind on the murder of Mark Christie (36), in the Kilcooley estate in Bangor, Co Down.

He was chased by a group of men through the estate late on Tuesday before being brutally attacked in the street. He died at the scene from horrific injuries.

His murder came shortly after he avoided a custodial sentence after a court appearance on an assault charge.

According to the PSNI, the dead man was at the rear of a house at Millisle Gardens in the estate at about 11.15pm on Tuesday. He was chased by a number of men with weapons who caught up with him at the Owen Roe Drive area a short distance away.

Det Chief Insp Alan Crockett said: "A violent assault took place and the deceased suffered horrific injuries." He said a number of witnesses were in the area, many of whom have come forward to help with the inquiry.

"Whatever Mark's background, he didn't deserve to be hacked to death in the street," he added.

Police believe the gang of men went to the area with the intention of hunting down their victim.

Det Chief Insp Crockett would not be drawn on any motive, saying all possible motives were current lines of inquiry.

"There are a number of surrounding matters linked to Mark's death and they are the subject of further inquiries at this stage," he said.

Kilcooley is one of the largest estates in Northern Ireland with a population of some 4,000 and is said to be under the strong influence of UDA paramilitaries.

The body was found by the side of the road and police sealed off the scene throughout the day while forensic examinations were carried out.

At one stage two women and two men - thought to be relatives - were allowed through the cordon.

North Down deputy mayor Diana Peacocke of the UUP said she was appalled by the killing.

"This man ran through the estate, up the side of houses where children may have been, before he was brutally attacked and murdered," she said.

DUP Assembly member Alex Easton said the murder "sent a wave of fear through the community" amid efforts to regenerate the estate.

The death of another Bangor man is no longer being treated as suspicious by the PSNI.

Roy Matthews was found at his home in Church Street, Bangor, by a neighbour on Monday night.

In Belfast, about 12 miles away, police are keeping an open mind into the suspicious death of a man whose body was found in the north of the city.

The man, who was in his 20s, was discovered beside the Ballygomartin river off the Forthriver Road. A postmortem is being conducted.