Murder victim Sean Fox had been forced to publicly deny he was a major player in the drugs trade following the death of his close friend Jim ‘JD’ Donegan.
r Fox was gunned down as he watched a Premier League football match in the Donegal Celtic social club in west Belfast just after 2.30pm on Sunday.
A former player with the Suffolk Road club, he had also played for Crusaders in the past.
Police investigating the murder carried out searches in the Lenadoon area of west Belfast on Monday just a short distance from the social club.
A heavy police presence was in the area for most of the day. Specialist officers in forensic suits were seen using metal detectors and carrying out fingertip searches.
The victim, who owned a second-hand car business, died almost instantly when two masked gunmen entered the club, singled him out and fired up to nine shots as horrified customers and staff watched on.
While there were trained first aiders in the club at the time, the victim’s injuries were said to be “catastrophic” and he died almost instantly.
It is thought that someone may have been monitoring Mr Fox’s movements inside the bar before the shooting. Eyewitnesses say the gunmen walked straight through the busy club to the exact seat the car dealer was sitting at before opening fire. Police later said the gunmen walked “past several people before firing their weapons at Sean”.
Following the December 2018 murder of Mr Donegan, who owned a car valeting business, Mr Fox moved into his late friend’s house in Lisburn.
Mr Donegan was shot dead as he sat behind the wheel of his £80,000 Porsche outside his son’s school on the Glen Road in west Belfast.
There have been several arrests but no convictions for his murder. In 2019, police said they believed both INLA and Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) were involved. Mr Fox was warned that his life could be under threat from dissidents following the Donegan murder and then again more recently.
While many of the car dealer’s associates tried to secure their own safety by giving information to the dissident groupings on fellow criminals in a bid to secure their safety, Mr Fox was seen as defiantly challenging the killers.
One of the so called ‘Marbella Crew’ because of their love of the exclusive Spanish resort, he was accused of living a lifestyle well beyond his means. With rumours rife last year, he posted on social media denying his links to criminality after a list of alleged drug dealers that included his name was posted on Facebook.
“I don’t write on Facebook but enough is enough,” he posted.
“I don’t sell drugs. I’m not a drug dealer”.
He added that he had no need to explain where the money for his flash Mercedes with a personalised number plate came from.
“My family our (sic) fed up with all this s*** please leave us alone,” he wrote.
“Go away, get your facts right, don’t spread lies about people.
“My kids and family nor do I need this s***. Low life scum.”
Last night the PSNI appealed to anyone who saw the gunmen as they entered the social club at around 2.25pm or a few minutes later to come forward. They also asked anyone with mobile phone footage of the incident, or anyone who was on Suffolk Road around the time of the murder with any video to contact police on 101.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Millar said: “This was carried out in a crowded function room where people were watching football and it is only by pure good fortune other patrons were not injured or killed as a result of this disgraceful attack. Both men were masked and I believe they made their escape on foot along Suffolk Road in the direction of Gweedore.”