Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Major Investigation Teams are now formally linking the murders of Sean Fox and Mark Hall.
Both men were executed at close range in broad daylight in West Belfast just under a year apart.
Detectives have released new information and images as part of a renewed appeal.
The brutal and violent murder of 42-year-old Sean Fox took place on the afternoon of Sunday 2nd October this year when he was shot dead inside the Donegal Celtic Sports and Social Club on the Suffolk Road in West Belfast.
At around 2.25pm, two masked gunmen entered the club and made their way past several people. They shot Sean multiple times as people relaxed watching sport, spending time with friends in a popular local venue. At one point, both gunmen stood over Sean, shooting him, as he collapsed to the floor.
Mark Hall, 31, was shot dead in a brutal gun attack at his family home in Rodney Drive, Belfast, on Saturday 18 December 2021. Just after 4.30pm, two gunmen approached the home and one fired shots through the front window of the house. Mark was critically wounded, and later died.
Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan, Head of Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Major Investigation Teams, said: “I can confirm that detectives are now formally linking the horrifically violent murders of Mark Hall and Sean Fox.
“Following careful examination of CCTV footage seized, we believe the murders were carried out by the same two gunmen. It is also now our assessment the murders were carried out by an organised group of criminals who operate like terrorists and who may be, or have been, members of terrorist organisations. We are aware that people move between these groupings and we are cautious not to label the grouping or attribute the murders to a particular organisation at this time.
“However the cold-blooded executions of Mark Hall and Sean Fox bear all the hallmarks of dissident republican killings. There are a number of similarities in the two murders including the location of West Belfast, as well as the brazen and reckless style of the shootings in public in broad daylight.
"It is clear the gunmen have an in-depth knowledge of these areas in West Belfast and felt comfortable carrying out their executions in front of a number of people and witnesses.
“In the case of Sean Fox, who was a married father of two and a regular visitor to the social club, we know he was singled out as he sat enjoying a drink in a busy function room. He was shot multiple times by both gunmen. They arrived, carried out the murder and left the club in under a minute. They were inside the premises for approximately 21 seconds.
"This is a popular local club widely used by local families with young children. The gunmen fired 20 bullets and we have identified multiple strike marks. Anyone in that room or indeed nearby, could have been killed or seriously injured."
Gunman wearing a grey hoodie arriving at the Club before the murder of Sean Fox.
“The same disregard for the safety of local people was displayed in the murder of Mark Hall when the two masked gunmen arrived at the front door of Mark’s mother’s house in Rodney Parade. They fought with Mark’s sister as she prevented them getting into the house.
"One of the gunmen fired through the front window and shot Mark five times as he sat on the sofa. These shots were fired over Mark’s mother who was in the room at the time. This recklessness beggars belief and shows a complete lack of thought or care for anyone else who could have been caught in the cross-fire.
“As they fled the scene one of the killers turned around and fired a shot at Mark’s sister. This act clearly demonstrates they did not carry out these murders for a political ideology. The fact they attempted to shoot this woman in anger shows they are irresponsible cowards.”
Detective Superintendent Corrigan is making several new appeals in relation to Mark Hall’s murder.
“We know the two masked gunmen arrived in St James’s Crescent in a silver-coloured Skoda Superb taxi, registration GM16 YCA, just before 4.30pm on Saturday 18 December, a week before Christmas. The taxi has never been recovered and I would appeal to anyone who has information on the car and its whereabouts to contact police."
The taxi used by the gunmen to arrive at the address before the shooting of Mark Hall.
“The gunmen went into alley-ways behind the terrace houses and emerged in Rodney Parade before approaching the front door of Mark’s mother’s house. After the execution they ran from Rodney Parade into St James’s Crescent and across Donegal Road, along a walkway behind the Park Centre and emerged on the Falls Road near the Beechmount area."
The two gunmen as they approach Beechmount after the shooting of Mark Hall.
“CCTV of the gunmen seized from both murder scenes clearly shows they are the same two men. I have released these images today and would appeal to anyone who has information about their identity to come forward.”
Detective Superintendent Corrigan also released new information about the murder of Sean Fox: “We now know the two gunmen travelled to and from Donegal Celtic Sports and Social Club on bicycles through the areas of Glen Road, Dungloe Crescent, Glenveigh, Gweedore Gardens and Carigart Avenue between 1420 and 1430 hours on October 2nd.
“I am appealing for information about where these bicycles originated from and where they are now.
“One gunman is riding a light grey or silver generic, low spec model mountain bike. There is a plastic bag over the seat. He was wearing a light grey hoodie with distinctive three orange lines down the arms, dark grey bottoms, dark footwear and gloves and has a cap on under his hoodie. He is carrying a dark black holdall, which I believe contained the guns.
“The second gunman was riding a racer bike with a distinctive rear point to the saddle which appears to be a Fizik Arione, or a copy of this model. It had a white handlebar, white handlebar stem, pink handlebar tape and white tyres. He was wearing a blue hoodie, dark-coloured bottoms and footwear and light grey gloves.”
Detectives have conducted a number of searches and arrests this week in West Belfast in relation to both murders.
Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan added: “Anyone with any information about these two horrific, cold-blooded executions is asked to contact police on 101 or provide information anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111, which has offered two rewards of up to £20,000 for anonymous information it receives that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murders of Mr Fox and Mr Hall.
“I understand that people may feel afraid to contact police but I would like to provide reassurance that we consider all information given anonymously to Crimestoppers. Ultimately we need the community to work with us and come forward to tell police what they know about the people who carry out these heinous murders. We need evidence in order to successfully prosecute and it is by working together that we can obtain better outcomes.”