McCartney murder: Conflicting versions of fatal night

By David McKittrick
The Independent
05 March 2005

Robert McCartney was on a night out on 30 January, having left his partner, Bridgeen Hagans, and his two children at home, when he called at a Belfast bar for a brief drink. There are conflicting versions of how he lost his life.

The McCartney family say Mr McCartney and a friend, Brendan Devine, stopped off at Magennis's on their way to a birthday party.

According to the priest at the McCartney funeral, the deadly flurry of violence which followed took place in less than 15 minutes.

The family said Mr McCartney and his friend were accused of making a rude gesture at a group of women. One of those at the McCartney table brought the women a drink, apparently to make amends.

The IRA said a dispute broke out between a senior republican and a group involving Mr McCartney and Mr Devine. After an initial heated exchange between the senior republican and Mr McCartney blows were exchanged between the senior republican and another man, the IRA claimed.

Robert's sister, Catherine, explained: "Certainly Robert wouldn't have been liked by a particular individual. It was pride, ego, he would have been jealous of him basically."

In a separate version of events Gerard "Jock" Davison, reputedly a former IRA commander in Belfast, said he had been told that rude gestures had been made at women. In his account he approached Mr McCartney and "sorted it out in a couple of seconds".

Mr Davison alleged that another man verbally attacked him and stabbed him three times, adding: "I defended myself and that was my sole role in the whole affair."

Mr Davison was taken to hospital by ambulance. He denied he had drawn his finger across his throat in a gesture to other IRA members in the bar. The McCartney family said they were told such a hand signal had been given.

The IRA said the senior republican and the man he exchanged blows with were not armed, but that both had been struck by bottles thrown by others. They added that Mr McCartney played no part in the melée but said both the republican and Mr Devine received serious stab wounds inside the bar.

In his account, Mr Devine said: "I felt the presence of five fellas around me and was hit over the head with a bottle. I remember a hand coming over my face and my throat was slashed a couple of times."

The IRA, and others, said Mr McCartney, Mr Devine and a third man left the bar and were walking away when they were attacked and Mr McCartney and Mr Devine were stabbed. Accounts differ on how many men were involved, but it may have been a dozen or more.

Mr Devine said he saw Mr McCartney, who was confronted by five men, calling out: "Nobody deserved this. We didn't do anything." Mr McCartney was stabbed in the stomach and badly beaten, apparently with sewer rods. Mr Devine said he and Mr McCartney were "left for dead".

Later men cleaned up the bar to destroy potential forensic evidence, and took away film from the bar's CCTV.

Catherine McCartney added: "I don't think they were hunting them down that night, I just think they came across the opportunity. I don't think it was premeditated but I don't think when they were stabbed they intended to leave the two of them living."

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