RESIDENTS of a guesthouse in Ballymena have spoken of their shock after the 67-year-old owner of the property was brutally stabbed to death.
Inayat Shah ran the ‘Traveller’s Rest’ at Galgorm Road in the town and police have launched a murder investigation.
Police had been called to the property which is close to Ballymena Train/Bus Station and a short distance from the PSNI station, on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday morning a laneway down the side of a row of properties was still sealed off and officers were at the rear.
Mr Shah’s family members had gathered at the Traveller’s Rest but did not wish to comment.
Local people have paid tributes were paid to Mr Shah.
Seamus Mulholland (77), who has lived at the Traveller’s Rest since last November, described Mr Shah as “a real gentleman”.
He added: “I’m shocked, he was a real gentleman, he treated me well, I couldn’t have got better and I have been in a lot of houses like this and this is the best one I have been in.
“He and his wife couldn’t have been better to me and he had a grandson who brought me my breakfast in bed every morning.”
“The food and the attention is great, they couldn’t have been nicer to me.”
Ian Armstrong, who runs a nearby shop, said: “It is very sad, he was a very pleasant man, a gentleman.
“He maybe would have come over here once a week with the grandkids buying them sweets and stuff.
“I still don’t really know the full story out of the whole thing, I am hearing different rumours.”
It is understood Mr Shah lived in the Traveller’s Rest where there are normally around twenty residents.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery said on Saturday: “Shortly after 3.30pm this afternoon police received a report that a man had been stabbed in a property on Galgorm Road.
“Police responded but despite the efforts of emergency services the 67 year man was pronounced dead at the scene.
A 36 year old man was also taken to hospital for treatment for injuries that are not believed to be life threatening.
“A 51 year old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and remains in custody at this time.
On Sunday detectives from PSNI Major Investigation Team, investigating the murder of a man in Ballymena yesterday, confirmed the victim was 67-year-old Inayat Shah.
The Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery, said: “Mr Shah died from injuries sustained in an incident on the Galgorm Road at around 3.30pm yesterday afternoon. A 51 year old man arrested on suspicion of murder remains in police custody at this time.
“My investigation into this brutal murder is ongoing and I continue to appeal for anyone who was on Galgorm Road yesterday afternoon and who witnessed the incident or anyone with any information that can assist with the investigation to contact detectives.
“I am particularly keen to speak with anyone who was driving on the Galgorm Road in the area of the PSNI Station or the Bus Station between 3.30pm and 3.45pm and who has dash cam or mobile phone footage to get in touch with detectives at the Incident Room in Ballymena PSNI Station on 101 quoting reference 863 21/03/20.
“Alternatively information can be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 that gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”
On Sunday a 51 year old man was charged with the murder of Mr Shah.
He is expected to appear before Coleraine Magistrates Court tomorrow, Monday 23 March.
Hundreds of tributes were paid to Mr Shah on social media.
One said: “A lovely man who helped other people”.
Another said: “What a disgrace rip well known respectable man heart goes out to all the family.”
A man said: “Sadly missed was a good friend to us”.
Another person said: “At first he was my landlord….after that my friend….he was my coach….he motivated me and my husband to buy the house….he was real friend….I’m so shocked..”
A woman said: “Absolutely disgusting after this man daily helps so many “homeless” or “people in need”.
Another woman said: “So sad.. lovely man who would help anyone.”
North Antrim TUV MLA Jim Allister said the “brutal murder in Ballymena in a place of shelter for many vulnerable people is quite appalling”.
He added: “To find the man who provided this facility fall victim to vicious knife crime is truly shocking.
“The swift police action and arrest is welcome. Condolences to the bereaved family.”
Ballymena Alliance councillor Patricia O’Lynn said: “I would offer my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the man murdered in the Galgorm Road area of Ballymena.
“The police investigation is at a very early stage and I would urge anyone with information about this tragedy to pass it to the police as soon as possible.”
Although the Traveller’s Rest is described as a B&B it is an address where many people attending court have been bailed to over the years.
There have been a number of incidents at the property in recent years.
There have been a number of court cases in which the Traveller’s Rest was mentioned including details of how Mr Shah had been assaulted and often racially abused.