Neighbours told reporters that Mr Hazlett was not politically active and the police said there was no obvious motive for the IRA to have killed him. An IRA statement later claimed that the murder was "an accident due to mistaken identity". This led to the suggestion that the terrorists' original target was a former part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment who had also been working on the renovation, but who wasn't there on the day of the attack. It was never never proven that this was their intention, although as the man was no longer a serving soldier it appears that either way the IRA were out to kill a Protestant civilian that day.
The IRA statement was condemned at Mr Hazlett's funeral.
"Such a dastardly deed as has taken place can never be excused, even by someone making the profound observation 'We have made a mistake'. Friends, some mistakes are so permanent and so final that they cannot be rectified. Apologies cannot exchange the coffin for the chair, they cannot give sparkle to a tear-dimmed eye, nor bring joy to a desolate and broken-hearted family".
Presbyterian minister at John Hazlett's funeral
John Hazlett was survived by his wife and two children.