Gang murder | 

Police fear gangland criminal Mark Hall was fourth victim of 'hitman for hire'

There are fears the gunman has access to new weapons being transported through a Dublin crime boss with republican sympathies
Murdered Mark Hall with his partner Sabrina Wilde (pregnant with their second child) and their young child Freya Joanne Hall

Murdered Mark Hall with his partner Sabrina Wilde (pregnant with their second child) and their young child Freya Joanne Hall

Allison Morris

Detectives investigating the murder of criminal Mark Hall are on the hunt for a ‘hitman’ who is thought to have been responsible for at least four recent killings.

There are fears that the ‘hitman for hire’ is operating in Northern Ireland and has access to new weapons being transported through a Dublin crime boss with known republican sympathies.

Mr Hall was shot up to seven times as he visited his mother’s house in the St James’ area of west Belfast.

His killers would have required local knowledge, and there are no reports of any getaway car being used in the shooting in what replicated the murder of drug trafficker Warren Crossan in June last year.

Mr Crossan, the son of slain dissident republican Tommy Crossan, was also visiting his mother’s house in St James, when two men chased him and gunned him down in the street.

No getaway car was used, and the men simply disappeared into the heavily built up area.

Crossan had been linked to the murder of gangland boss Robbie Lawlor, shot dead in Ardoyne in north Belfast as he collected a drug debt in March last year.

Police searches in Rodney Drive following the murder of Mark Hall

Police searches in Rodney Drive following the murder of Mark Hall

Lawlor’s ruthless Drogheda-based gang, made up mainly of teenagers, was responsible for one of the most brutal killings in Irish history —that of 17-year-old Keane Mulready Woods, who was beaten to death and his body dismembered and left in various locations in North Dublin. Parts of the teenager’s remains have never been found.

However, Lawlor’s gang had no foot-holding in Northern Ireland and limited means to stage any kind of retaliation in unfamiliar territory.

Detectives are expected to investigate a link between Saturday’s murder and the similar ‘execution’ style killings of Warren Crossan, that of former dissident Danny McClean last February, and drug dealer Jim JD Donegan, shot dead in December 2018.

While the gunman has acted alone in the past, two of the killings have been carried out with an accomplice. Both Crossan and Hall appear to have been betrayed by someone close to them, the timing of their rare visits to relatives’ homes in west Belfast known by their killers.

Hall was struck up to seven times by bullets fired by a masked gunman through a living room window, he died a short time later at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

His sister witnessed two gunmen approach the house and tried to intervene, narrowly avoiding injury — a bullet passed through her handbag.

Hall had been living in the Republic with his young pregnant girlfriend Sabrina Wilde, who is originally from Dublin, and their toddler daughter Freya.

Ms Wilde posted a picture of the couple together on Facebook saying: “My perfect little family, We only part to meet again”.

While Mark Hall used his large bulk to intimidate and extort as part of a ruthless criminal gang, his family are highly respected in the St James area. When his father Johnny, an ex-republican internee, died in 2015 hundreds of local people turned out to pay their respects.

Despite coming from a republican family. Hall had links to the UVF’s former Ballymena quartermaster Davy Murphy, who was murdered by the loyalist gang in 2019, for stealing guns and selling them to dissidents.

Murphy used Crossan — who had links to dissidents on both sides of the border through his father, who was the leader of the Continuity IRA when he was shot dead in 2014 —to sell on the loyalist weapons.

In March 2018, Hall and Murphy appeared in court charged with trying to extort £10,000 from a Co Antrim farmer. The pair told the victim there was a £10,000 bounty on his head and an elderly relative would be harmed if he did not pay up.

Bessbrook-based dissident Micky Drummond was jailed for three years for possessing the UVF firearms haul bought from Crossan.

Earlier this year, Hall was acquitted of possessing a sawn-off shotgun, pistol and silencer after being arrested alongside Egyptian national Abdel Rezk in a Belfast hotel in February 2020.

His co-accused was jailed for three years after a hearing at Belfast Crown Court last month, having pleaded guilty to possessing firearms and a small quantity of drugs.

At least one of Hall’s former criminal associates is thought to have passed information on his movements to his killers.

A source said: “St James is like a rabbit warren — only someone who knows the area would have been able to stage a hit like that and then disappear into the darkness without a trace.

One thing for sure is that the people responsible know what they are doing, they weren’t messing about, this is a purge on the drug gang’s leadership; it’s telling that it’s main players and not street dealers that they are taking out”.

PSNI Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan said: “What we currently know is that two gunmen approached Mark’s family home on Rodney Drive shortly after 4.30pm on Saturday, December 18.

A number of family members were in the room when these shots were fired, all narrowly missing injury. As the gunmen made off, a shot was fired at Mark’s sister which passed through her handbag.”

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