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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Thousands attend journalist's funeral
Jim Campbell, (left
Jim Campbell, (left) who survived an attempt on his life
Police inquiries into the murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan are concentrating on the Loyalist Volunteer Force, the RUC chief constable has said.

The 51-year-old father-of-three was shot dead close to his Lurgan home as he walked home from his local pub on Friday night.

He was buried on Monday following a service at his Westfield Gardens home.

In a call to a Belfast newsroom, the Red Hand Defenders said it carried out the murder. This is a cover name used by both the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

In a BBC interview on Monday, Sir Ronnie Flanagan said: "At this stage local involvement by the LVF is a very firm line of inquiry that we are pursuing.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan:
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "LVF involvement firm line of inquiry"
"It is a very early stage in the investigation, so we are not ruling out absolutely other possibilities, but at this stage we are firmly pursuing what we believe was activity by local elements of the so-called LVF."

Sir Ronnie added that he had given Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid a briefing on police inquiries into the murder and he said the government was keeping the LVF ceasefire "under almost hourly review".

Several thousand people attended Mr O'Hagan's funeral on Monday afternoon with both Protestant and Catholic clergymen offering prayers.

Among the mourners were representatives of the Northern Ireland Office, senior police officers, trade union figures and many journalists.

The former northern editor of the Sunday World, Jim Campbell, who himself survived a loyalist murder attempt in 1984, helped carry Mr O'Hagan's coffin.

Crime probes

Mr O'Hagan worked in the Belfast office of the Dublin-based Sunday World, where he built a reputation covering paramilitary and drugs-related stories.

Martin O'Hagan
Martin O'Hagan: Investigative journalist

He infuriated County Armagh paramilitary bosses, including murdered LVF leader Billy Wright, by exposing their crime and drugs rackets.

Mr O'Hagan had recently been working on a number of stories involving LVF members.

National Union of Journalists representative and close friend Kevin Cooper said Mr O'Hagan was unaware his life was under any more threat than usual at this particular time.

"Martin had no sense that he was under threat other than the fact that obviously he was under the attention of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries for stories he had done in the past," he said.

"But he himself had no personal feeling of a threat and it would have been me he would have turned to if that had been the case."

Northern editor of the Sunday World Jim McDowell said his colleague had been warned recently by a loyalist thug that he had been "clocked" walking his usual way home from the local pub, Father Joe's, where he went with his wife on Friday nights.

He had changed his route home from the pub, even though he had not been overly worried by the threat, but was shot on the Tandragee Road just yards from his front doorstep.

A car pulled alongside the couple and a gunman shot Mr O'Hagan, who died shortly afterwards at the scene.

Marie O'Hagan escaped death when her husband pushed her into a hedge to protect her.

Ceasefires under scrutiny

The murder came at a time when the government has the UDA ceasefire under close scrutiny.

The Northern Ireland secretary warned on Friday that he would declare the ceasefire over if there was any more UDA-inspired violence, following a week of serious rioting in north Belfast.

Speaking on Radio Ulster on Monday, SDLP assembly member for the Lurgan area Brid Rodgers said she had asked to speak to Dr Reid to ask him whether he intended to take any action against the LVF after Mr O'Hagan's murder.

On Saturday, Dr Reid pledged to do all in his power to catch those responsible for Mr O'Hagan's killing.

The police have appealed for information from any witnesses to the attack.

BBC NI's Connor McCauley reports:
"The murder has stunned Northern Ireland"
BBC NI's William Leitch:
"The first paramilitary murder of a journalist in Northern Ireland has been compared to the killing of Veronica Guerin"
RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan:
"At this stage we are pursuing the line that it was carried out by LVF elements"
See also:

29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid vows to catch journalist's killers
29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Murder condemned as 'despicable act'
29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
The killing of a journalist
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