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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 22:03 GMT 23:03 UK
'Thousands' attend vigil for teenager
Vigil for Gerard Lawlor in north Belfast
Thousands gathered in silence at the murder scene
An estimated 5,000 people have attended a vigil in memory of a north Belfast teenager who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.

Gerard Lawlor, a Catholic father-of-one, was shot dead near the Whitewell Road area of the city on Sunday where sectarian tensions have been high in recent months.

People from both sides of the community are holding a vigil in memory of the 19-year-old, who was killed by the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

Thousands of people, many carrying flowers, convened at Floral Street, the spot where Mr Lawlor was killed, to show their disgust at another senseless killing.

Gerard Lawlor
Gerard Lawlor: Shot as he walked home

Parish priest Father Dan Whyte told the crowd that the decent, ordinary people of the area demanded an end to all killings and shootings.

Father Whyte, who gave the last rites to Mr Lawlor, met with his family on Tuesday. He said the reality of what had happened was just beginning to sink in.

Last July, Father Whyte officiated at a similar service for Protestant teenager Gavin Brett who was shot dead by the UDA in Glengormley.

Gavin's parents, Michael and Phyllis attended the vigil.

Motorbike

Meanwhile, the police have renewed their appeal for information about Mr Lawlor's murder.

They particularly want to hear from anyone who saw a small dark coloured motorbike, carrying two people in dark clothes, which was seen in Floral Road about the time of the killing.

A motorbike matching that description was also seen on the Antrim Road after the killing being ridden towards the city centre.

Police also want to hear from the people who were in a white car which was driven into Floral Road at about the time of the murder.

Gerard Lawlor's parish priest Father Dan Whyte
Father Whyte: Told the crowd local people demanded an end to all killings

On Monday, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, which is a cover name for the UDA , said it murdered Mr Lawlor as a "measured military response" to republican attacks on the Protestant community.

The statement was condemned by the Security Minister, Jane Kennedy, who said it was "a pathetic attempt to justify sordid sectarian murder".

The statement was also condemned by nationalist politicians.

The victim's mother, Sharon, appealed for no retaliation. She said she would pray for those who killed her son.

She said Gerard had been planning to set up home with his girlfriend and 18-month-old son.

Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan said the killing could not be "dressed up" as a measured military response.

Sinn Fein's Mitchell McLaughlin said it was "sickening".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Julia Paul:
"They came from both sides of the community to show their disgust at another senseless killing"
See also:

22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
20 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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