O'Hagan, a 51-year-old investigative journalist with the Dublin newspaper Sunday World, was shot dead outside his home in the Northern Ireland town of Lurgan.
O'Hagan was shot several times from a passing car while walking home
from a pub with his wife, who was not hurt in the attack. The vehicle
used in the attack was found on fire not far from the crime scene.
O'Hagan, who worked in the Belfast office of the Sunday World,
was an Irish Catholic journalist who had become well known for his
coverage of both Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups.
More than 20 years ago, before he became a journalist, O'Hagan was
convicted of running guns for the Irish Republican Army and served five
years in prison. But he later turned away from radical politics,
studying sociology at the Open University and the University of Ulster
and then entering journalism as a freelancer for local newspapers. His
connections in both Catholic Republican and Protestant Loyalist
circles, as well as in the British security forces, gave him unusual
insight into the conflict but also made him a target for paramilitary
In 1989, he was kidnapped and interrogated by the Irish Republican
Army, which tried unsuccessfully to force him to divulge his sources,
and in the early 1990s he was forced to flee to Dublin after receiving
death threats from a top loyalist gunman. O'Hagan returned to Belfast
in 1995 after most paramilitary groups had declared cease-fires.
While O'Hagan had received threats from Protestant militants in the
past, it is not clear if he had been threatened prior to the shooting.
The Red Hand Defenders, which police consider a cover name for
Protestant militants from the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and the
Ulster Defense Association, claimed responsibility for his murder.
Police initially identified the LVF as a primary suspect. Prior to his
murder, O'Hagan had been working on several stories about the LVF, the
BBC reported. Colleagues believe the LVF targeted O'Hagan for exposing
the narcotics network they controlled, as well as assassinations and
intimidation rackets they orchestrated.