Murdered taxi driver Michael McGibbon targeted by dissidents following 'remark to wrong girl'
Published 19/04/2016 | 08:36
Murdered taxi driver Michael McGibbon may have been targeted because dissidents claimed he "made an unfavourable comment" to one of their daughters.
Detectives are investigating claims that members of the terror group agreed to "punish" the father-of-four after they accused him of making the remark to the girl while he was driving her.
Prominent north Belfast dissident republican Dee Fennell was held for questioning over the "shooting by appointment", but was released unconditionally last night.
The 34-year-old handed himself in at Musgrave Street PSNI station on Sunday after he became aware police were looking to speak with him in connection with Mr McGibbon's murder.
He and Mr McGibbon had known each other for a number of years.
The PSNI said yesterday that a motive for the murder was still under investigation.
A police source told the Belfast Telegraph that a main line of enquiry was that he had been targeted over accusations he had made a remark to "the wrong girl".
"Apparently Mr McGibbon was accused by some in the community of making unfavourable comments to the wrong young girl who happens to be the daughter of an associate of the man arrested on Sunday. So they decided to shoot him," the source said.
Mr McGibbon, a much-loved father and husband, died in his wife Joanne's arms after he was shot three times in the legs in a north Belfast alleyway on Friday night.
Senior dissident republicans had approached him on Friday afternoon as he collected his children from school and ordered him to go to the alley at Butler Place at 10pm to be shot or face exile.
Mr McGibbon, who had no criminal record and was not known to police, attended the arranged punishment shooting.
He was shot three times. One of the bullets struck an artery in his thigh and he bled to death.
First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said yesterday that those responsible for the weekend slaying were trying to bring fear onto the streets.
Mr McGibbon's killing has reignited concerns over the level of control paramilitaries still have in some communities.
The murdered man had contacted police on Thursday to say he was in fear for his life after two masked men arrived at his house.
The men asked him to come out of the house but he refused, and they told him they would return.
Police believe that a number of other people may have had a similar visit in recent weeks.
"It is very concerning that police were aware of a threat against Mr McGibbon but were not able to do anything to protect him," Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said.
"These dissidents have a lot of influence in some communities and the only way to break that is for people to come forward and tell police what they know." The DUP member added: "These thugs are freely able to operate as judge, jury and executioner."
Sinn Fein Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said: "This is a criminal gang who are killing people for no reason. All the damage they are doing is to their own community."