'nerves wrecked' | 

Innocent man arrested in gangland murder probe says PSNI lifted the 'wrong man'

"I am all over the place, I haven't stopped shaking since they arrested me, I'm even back on the fags, my nerves are wrecked"

Barry Walsh speaks to the Sunday World. Pic Pacemaker

Paula Mackin

A man arrested by police investigating a gangland murder says he's the victim of a mistaken identity cock-up by police.

Belfast man Barry Walsh yesterday issued a "it wasn't me" plea following his arrest in connection with the daylight murder of Mark Hall a fortnight ago.

West Belfast man Barry says his life was turned upside down when police raided his home last Tuesday morning and arrested him for a brutal crime he has no involvement in.

The 40-year-old, who sources say has no convictions or gangland connections, was arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder before being released unconditionally.

Speaking to the Sunday World, Mr Walsh said he had absolutely nothing to do with the brutal assassination of father-of-one Hall last month and now fears for his own safety.

"I have never broken the law in my life, I have no convictions and I most certainly had nothing to do with the murder," he said.

"Are you mad? Who would get themselves involved in that for f**k sake?

Mark Hall was gunned down

"I am all over the place, I haven't stopped shaking since they arrested me, I'm even back on the fags, my nerves are wrecked," Mr Walsh told Sunday World.

Still shaking from his experience, Barry says he is at a loss why he was arrested, claiming his name wasn't even on the arrest warrant produced by police.

"I don't know why I was arrested, I don't know how I got mixed up in this, I still don't.

"It was a joke from the very start. My name wasn't even on the arrest warrant.

"I should never have been arrested, they lifted the wrong man.

"They came in here at eight o'clock on Tuesday morning like a bunch of ninjas, they scared the life out of me, I hadn't a clue what was going on.

"When they told me what it was about I just couldn't believe it. I had never even been in a police station before in all my life and then I was arrested in connection to a murder, that murder. I still can't believe it.

"When I was having my mouth swabbed, the policeman asked me had I not done this before. I told him no. Why would he think that? I was terrified, I don't mind admitting that.

"My head has been all over the place, it's only now that I'm getting round to tidying up the mess they made when they raided me."

Mark Hall was 'inseparable' from murdered friend Warren Crossan

Barry says he knows he is the talk of the area, that mud can stick but people need to know he is an innocent man.

"My neighbours are looking at me funny, when I walked into the bookies last night people were staring. People are talking but anyone who knows me knows I had absolutely nothing to do with any of this. I just couldn't.

"Ganglands and murder, Jesus the only thing I know about that is what I read in your newspaper."

Barry's disgusted family want him to seek legal advice and sue for wrongful arrest.

"My family are furious, so am I, but I just want to put this all behind me and get back to the way my life was before this. I am traumatised, I am afraid to even open the front door because I don't know who is going to be there."

Mark Hall was murdered, it is believed, because of his friendship with slain criminal Warren Crossan who was gunned down in similar circumstances in June 2020.

Crossan's murder was linked to the slaying of Dublin gangster Robbie Lawlor who was killed in the Ardoyne area of the city two months previous.

Hall, who lived in Drogheda where a feud has been simmering, is said to have vowed to avenge his best friend's killing, and his threats many believe led to his shocking death.

Meanwhile police hunting Hall's killers released CCTV showing the gunmen arrive at the scene.

Detectives have also released footage of Mark Hall walking towards his mother's home shortly before he was murdered.

The 31-year-old, who was preparing to become a father for the second time, was shot in the St James's area of West Belfast on December 18 .

Detectives from the PSNI Major Investigation Team investigating the murder released the CCTV footage as they issued an appeal for help from the public.

The footage shows Mark making his way through the St James's area towards his family home at Rodney Drive. The footage also shows the two gunmen arrive in the area and the vehicle they travelled in.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness said: "Mark Hall was shot dead in a barbaric gun attack on Rodney Drive in West Belfast, on Saturday 18 December 2021. That afternoon, at approximately 4.35pm, two gunmen fired shots through the front window of his family home. Mark was critically wounded, and sadly later died in hospital.

"To encourage witnesses to come forward, we have today released CCTV footage. It shows Mark's last movements, as he travelled through the St James's area to the family home on Rodney Drive.

"The footage also shows a silver vehicle, which we believe had a yellow taxi sign on its roof, turn from Donegall Road into St James's Crescent and stop. We believe the footage then shows the two gunmen exit from the rear passenger door of the vehicle, before they walk along an alleyway which runs behind the houses on St James's Crescent and Rodney Drive," he said.

Local sources say many with information are too afraid to help police due to the gangland connection to the murder.

The Sunday World asked the PSNI for a comment in relation to the arrest of Barry Walsh, and a spokesperson said that if anyone had a complaint about the actions of police they could contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

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