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BBC NI's Kelda Crawford
"Detectives say a sectarian motive cannot be ruled out"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 January, 2000, 16:34 GMT
Antrim murder drugs-related - PUP

Antrim estate Mr Smith was attacked in the Stiles estate in Antrim

A Progressive Unionist Party councillor has claimed the murder of a father of three in Antrim on Saturday was drugs related.

Father-of-three Denver Smith died following an attack early on new year's day in an Antrim housing estate.

Mr Smith, a Protestant who was 32 and married, was found lying on a green in the Stiles estate by police responding to reports of an assault.

He was taken to Antrim Area Hospital at about 0500 GMT but died shortly afterwards.

Police believe he was bludgeoned to death and have not ruled out a sectarian motive..

Detectives at first appeared to rule out a sectarian motive for the attack, but later revised their opinion after making inquiries.

'Callous and sickening'

However, the loyalist politician and friend of Mr Smith, Ken Wilkinson of the Progressive Unionist Party, believes a criminal gang was responsible.

"This wasn't sectarian. It was a callous and totally sickening murder carried out by criminal elements on a gentle giant of a man," he said.

"We have absolutely embarrassed the RUC and other people to get up and do something about this," he said.

Denver Smith: "A gentle giant" according to friend, Ken Wilkinson
"There's been several drugs related deaths within Antrim town in the past couple of years," he sais.

Cllr Wilkinson paid tribute to Mr Smith and said the victim had been in good spirits after leaving millennium celebrations at a local football club to join another New Year's Eve party.


"I knew him well. During the elections, he canvassed for me and drove me about," he said.

"He loved his family, the odd drink and a game of pool and his death has not just devastated his family, it has shocked this community and has particularly shocked me."

The killing was also condemned as "shocking" by the Ulster Unionist Mayor of Antrim, Paddy Marks.

"I am not aware of the full details of this incident but to learn that a murder investigation has been launched comes as a dreadful shock to me and to this town," he said.

"Antrim has not had an incident like this for some time. It comes as a terrible blow, when you consider that last night we were waving goodbye to 1999 with a fireworks display and looking forward to a new future."
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