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Friday, July 30, 1999 Published at 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK


Paramilitary link to murder

Police blame unidentified paramilitaries for the killing

Police say the murder of a man in west Belfast bears all the hallmarks of a paramilitary-style execution.

Tom Coulter reports: "Police say it was a callous and brutal murder"
Republicans are being blamed by unionists and the SDLP for the killing of Charles Bennett, 22, from the north of the city.

Mr Bennett was found behind a social club on Friday in a nationalist area of Belfast. He had been missing for five days.

[ image: Charles Bennett: Missing for five days]
Charles Bennett: Missing for five days
Local people discovered him lying on waste ground behind a club, with a cloth over his face and his hands tied behind his back.

He is understood to have been shot in the head where his body was found shortly after 0100 near Milltown Row in the Falls Road area of the city.

Mr Bennett was last seen at his girlfriend's house on Sunday afternoon when he answered a knock on the door and said he would return in 15 minutes.

BBC Northern Ireland's Jeremy Mitchell reports on the murder
The killing bore all the hallmarks of the work of the Provisional IRA according to Ulster Unionist MP, Jeffrey Donaldson.

"It would be difficult for any other paramilitary group to operate in that particular area without the sanction or knowledge of the Provisional IRA," he said with reference to mainly nationalist Falls Road.

He said the killing sent a message to the government that the IRA could commit murder and get away with it.

Jeffrey Donaldson: "Murder a breach of ceasefire"
"The political repercussions ought to be that prisoner releases should be halted". The murder was a breach of "some ceasefire", Mr Donaldson added.

SDLP councillor for north Belfast, Martin Morgan, also believed republican paramilitaries were behind the killing.

"When that man left his house, he knew who he was going with, he knew who he was going to see," he said.

'We don't want violence'

"My message is the vast majority of people in this country, and on this island, have clearly said we don't want violence any more and I think it's about time these people took heed of that."

Sinn Fein President and local MP Gerry Adams said: "At this time I want to limit myself to expressing condolences to the family and until we find out precisely what has happened and the circumstances of this man's death, I don't want to be adding to any of the speculation."

[ image: Officers are looking for clues]
Officers are looking for clues
RUC Chief Inspector Ernie Waterworth said: "It has all the indications of a paramilitary style execution, given the circumstances in which he was found.

"We haven't closed any doors. All aspects are being investigated."

SDLP councillor for the area, Alex Attwood, said people were alarmed and wanted to know the motive behind the killing.

In recent months two drug dealers - including Newry gangster Brendan "Speedy" Fagan - have been murdered and several others attacked in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.

Petrol bombs

Unionists have accused the Provisional IRA, which says it is maintaining a ceasefire, of ordering the killings.

In north Belfast, police officers came under attack from masked youths throwing petrol bombs in the Manor Street area on Thursday evening.

Two were arrested during the violence at about 1930 when officers were also attacked in the Clifton Park Avenue area by youths hurling fireworks, stones and bricks.

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