A senior detective has defended the PSNI’s investigation into the murder of Jim Donegan, who was shot dead as he waited to pick up his son at school.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, head of the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, hit back after the BBC reported that people who worked in the same industrial complex in Drumbo as the father-of-two had not been interviewed.
One of them said that they saw Mr Donegan on the day he was killed and described how he had arrived to work in a taxi before leaving in his red sports car at about 10.30am.
Another told the BBC: “After he was shot we expected the police to come and we’ve been waiting ever since.
“You would have expected them to have come by now and you would have expected them to come as close to the event when things might be still clear in your mind.
“If you were a cop would you not come and talk to the people who worked in the same yard as him?”
The BBC interviewed a retired Scotland Yard officer, John Devitt, who raised questions about the PSNI investigation.
He said: “Twelve weeks down the line for individuals not to have been seen is very concerning.”
The law enforcement expert said police should have been curious as to whether or not anyone saw anything suspicious before the brutal killing.
Mr Devitt also questioned the police claim that the investigation is “progressing”.
“I think (this) is a major issue, and police have major questions to address,” he said.
“It tells me their priorities are not as they should be.
“The golden hours in any murder investigation is the first 24 hours, let alone the first hour of an investigation.”
There have been claims that 43-year-old Mr Donegan was involved in the drugs trade, although these were denied by his family.
In a hard-hitting statement released last night, Det Chief Supt Murray rebuffed criticism of the PSNI investigation.
He said: “We note with a degree of disappointment today’s comments about the investigation into Jim Donegan’s murder and would seek to give a more accurate account.
“I would like to reassure the Donegan family it is progressing at pace and we are following a number of lines of inquiry.”
The senior officer said that detectives had been working “tirelessly” since the murder and had spoken to 155 witnesses, conducted 15 searches, carried out extensive house to house inquiries, watched hours of CCTV and arrested four people.
He said: “They will continue to follow where the evidence leads.
“We are aware of a number of premises belonging to Mr Donegan and within hours of his murder we had visited his business premises in Drumbo to make enquiries. Our investigations very quickly established that Mr Donegan does not appear to have been targeted from his business premises and the main focus for the inquiry, both in terms of the actual shooting and the weeks leading up to it are strongly focused in west Belfast and that has driven the direction of the inquiry.”
Det Chief Supt Murrary said that the PSNI had concentrated its resources into key lines of inquiry “based on intelligence and the yield of information we have accrued through our exploitation of a myriad of investigative avenues”.
He said: “Mr Devitt is not aware of that material and where it is leading the focus of my inquiry team and therefore made his comments without context and with a very partial knowledge of the case.
“Hence I strongly disagree with his analysis and I would like to reassure Mr Donegan’s grieving family that the police investigation will continue along the lines of intelligence and facts which only the PSNI are fully sighted on.
“I would also ask any individuals within the community who say they have information, yet have not spoken to police, to come forward in line with previous police appeals.”
Mr Donegan was sitting behind the wheel of his £80k Porsche outside St Mary’s Grammar School and Christian Brothers School on the Glen Road when the gunman calmly approached and opened fire at around 3.10pm on December 4, 2018.
His 13-year-old son narrowly missed witnessing what police have described as a “callous execution” by just a few seconds.
Teachers used coats and cardigans to cover the windscreen of the vehicle to spare children from witnessing the shocking aftermath of the attack.
The killer, who was wearing a high-visibility yellow jacket and carrying a black drawstring bag, was caught on CCTV as he jogged away from the horrific scene – police have released an image of what he they believe he looks like.
Meanwhile, a Police Ombudsman investigation into how the PSNI handled information about a threat issued against Mr Donegan is under way.
“The Police Ombudsman’s Office is now investigating whether this information was properly processed and actioned by police,” it said.
“We have informed Mr Donegan’s family about our investigation and will keep them updated as our enquiries progress.”
Mr Donegan’s widow Laura refused to comment last night when contacted by this newspaper.
At his funeral, parish priest Fr Martin Magill passed on a message from his family to mourners, saying they were “heartbroken” but were not seeking revenge.
“We are truly heartbroken by Jim being taken away from us in such a cruel, cold way but we wish for no retaliation, only justice for Jim,” Fr Magill said.