Murder victim ‘subjected to brutal assault’

PACEMAKER BELFAST   06/01/2015  FB'Brian McIlhagga from Ballymena who was shot in Ballymoney. He is pictures with his partner Ashley Craig, who was injured in the attack.'Police have opened a murder investigation after the man in his 40s was shot outside a property in the Riverview Park area at around 10.30pm on Monday.

PACEMAKER BELFAST 06/01/2015 FB'Brian McIlhagga from Ballymena who was shot in Ballymoney. He is pictures with his partner Ashley Craig, who was injured in the attack.'Police have opened a murder investigation after the man in his 40s was shot outside a property in the Riverview Park area at around 10.30pm on Monday.

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A father-of-five suffered a sustained and brutal assault before being shot in Ballymoney, police have said.

Brian McIlhagga, 42, was attacked and killed when at least three armed and masked men forced their way into a house in Riverview Park on Monday night.

Mr McIlhagga, a plasterer who was originally from Ballymena, was dragged out of the house.

PSNI chief inspector Michael Harvey, who is leading the murder hunt, said Mr McIlhagga was dragged from the kitchen, down the hallway and out through the front door of the house.

“He was beaten and then shot once in the leg outside the house. Tragically, he died at the scene as a result of the injuries inflicted during the attack. We are waiting for a post mortem examination to take place to determine the exact cause of death.

“This was a vicious, brutal and sustained attack on a man who was visiting his friend. It is unusual for a town like Ballymoney and I understand how the community is shocked by what has happened.”

He said the victim was “a friend of the woman who lived in the house at Riverview Park and had been a visitor in recent months”.

He added: “This was a brutal, sustained and vicious assault on this gentleman.”

Ashley Craig, a 32-year-old woman, orginally from Coleraine, who was also in the house at the time, was battered and forced to lie on the kitchen floor while the shooting took place. She dialled 999 about 10.30pm.

Four children aged 13 and younger were in the house when the gang burst in but it is unclear whether they witnessed the killing.

A motive has yet to be established and the PSNI has not ruled out the involvement of paramilitaries.

Mr Harvey added: “I have no information to rule in or rule out paramilitaries or any other motives for this attack.”

Police have not disclosed what type of weapon was used or whether other instruments were used during the beatings.

Police have set up a dedicated incident room at Ballymoney police station and are urging members of the public to get in contact.

Mr Harvey said: “I would appeal for anyone who was in the area of 10 Riverview Park between 10 and 11pm (on Monday) who saw any persons or any vehicles to contact detectives.

“We have a special incident room established at Ballymoney police station.

“Inquiries are at a very early stage. But, I would appeal to the local community to contact detectives.”

Mr Harvey said: “The victim has a minor criminal record but he is certainly not a major criminal.”