T he murder of Tommy Crossan is still shrouded in mystery almost one week after he was assassinated in broad daylight in West Belfast,
The well-known 43-year-old, who was a former leader of the CIRA before being expelled by that organisation, was gunned down as he sat in the office of a diesel yard on the Springfield Road last Friday afternoon – Good Friday.
With no group claiming the killing, several theories have emerged as to who was behind the brual murder with both CIRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) in the frame.
Former associates of Crossan, including those who ordered the murder of pizza deliveryman Kieran McManus in March last year, are considered to be one option. The Andersonstown News understands that Tommy Crossan was warned by police of a CIRA threat against him in recent weeks, almost one year after the CIRA made threats against him in a statement.
Last year, 26-year-old Kieran McManus was shot dead outside his place of work at Domino’s Pizza on Kennedy Way. A group claiming to be the CIRA claimed the murder of Kieran at the time but the claim was angrily rubbished by the mainstream CIRA who described it as “bogus” as well as an attempt to “blacken the good name of the republican movement”.
As we reported last year, a renegade gang of hoods, some of whom were expelled from the INLA for criminal activity, was behind the murder of Kieran McManus. The use of the CIRA name was okayed by a once-senior CIRA man in Turf Lodge who was a close associate of Tommy Crossan prior to 2010.
The same man, who has close links with the ex-INLA members, is said by some to have given the nod for Tommy Crossan to be executed last Friday.
Crossan was one of a number of members who split with the CIRA in 2010 amid allegations of criminality. He is believed to have aligned himself with the ‘Limerick faction’ splinter group and is also believed to have been involved in an attempt to take over the offices of Republican Sinn Féin on the Falls Road in the same year.
Another theory is that Oglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) carried out the murder of the St James’ man last week.
Earlier this year we reported that local group the Irish Volunteers announced it was to stand down in Belfast in accordance with demands made by ONH.
While the Irish Volunteers acquiesced, CIRA released a statement saying they were prepared to retaliate.
The group behind the statement is believed to be the Limerick faction, to which Tommy Crossan was aligned.
This faction and the Irish Volunteers moved in the same circles until January when ONH ordered the Irish Volunteers to stand down. Less than two months ago, the Limerick faction said they were being targeted by ONH but they would not back down.
“If any Volunteer of the CIRA, member of their family or their homes are harmed,” they said in February, “there will be immediate and severe retaliation. If any attacks are carried out against our people, the perpetrators of these attacks can expect the same and harsher treatment in return.”
The PSNI declined to comment on the theories saying all lines of enquiry were being pursued.
Meanwhile, a priest who anointed Tommy Crossan at the scene of the murder, said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“This was a shocking scene,” said Fr Tony Devlin, Parish Priest of St Paul’s. “It was obvious that this scene brought great distress to all who witnessed it – to the children playing in the nearby park, to local shoppers, to resident families, to the deceased man’s family and to those called to assist at this scene.
“It was nothing less than a public execution calculated to bring death and fear to the community. Those who carried out this action and later abandoned their car a few streets away were determined to communicate their message to our community. As a parish, we have experienced many fruits of the peace process but yesterday we witnessed evils return with this brutal murder.
“The people and children of this parish deserve better. They deserve peace but the price of peace involves standing up to criminal and violent ways by firstly speaking out against it and then if possible to help to bring to justice those who carried out this brutal act.
“We must not let the fear these people wish to put us under triumph.Our thoughts and prayers are with this man’s family today and all who are victims of violence.”
Tommy Crossan’s funeral will take place today (Thursday) at St John’s, Falls Road, at 10am.