A dad was brutally stabbed to death just hours after stopping a gang of thugs gatecrashing his daughter’s 18th birthday.
Father-of-three Eamonn Hughes was savagely attacked as he walked back to his Dungannon home after his daughter Siobhan’s birthday bash at a nearby club.
And, in a sickening spree of violence that left a number of victims in hospital, a Good Samaritan who tended to Mr Hughes as he lay dying was mowed down by a stolen car driven by his killers.
Mr Hughes was reortedly attacked after a notorious gang of hoods was prevented from getting into a party at the Irish National Foresters’ bar in the town’s Scotch Street.
He was ambushed as he made his way home with a group that included his son Kevin, family and neighbours.
His attackers, who are well-known to police, sprung from two stolen cars and attacked the group as they entered the Lisnahull estate.
It’s believed that Mr Hughes — whose father Frank murdered by loyalists in 1990 — was fatally stabbed by the driver of one of the stolen cars. His wife Eileen was being comforted by relatives last night.
A son of Mr Hughes was lucky to escape with his life when another gang member aimed a crossbow at his head and fired. He was struck in the arm as he defended himself. Then as one of his daughter’s pals tried to help Mr Hughes as he lay dying, a stolen car was driven directly at her.
Another woman, believed to be the girl’s mother, was also struck by a stolen car in the melee. Both were yesterday being treated in hospital, with the girl understood to have suffered two broken legs in the horrific attack.
Local independent councillor Barry Monteith, a close friend of the victim, branded the attack a “disgusting act”.
“Once again this community has woken up in pure shock. This was a man coming from his daughter’s 18th birthday party and it is an absolute shame and disgrace that he never made it home.”
Detectives were yesterday questioning “a number” of individuals, including four in relation to Mr Hughes’ murder.
However, it’s unclear if the man believed to have stabbed Mr Hughes — whose identity is known to Sunday Life — was one of those being held.
The detective leading the investigation, Superintendent Brian Williamson, said: "This was a vicious attack and a despicable crime. We are determined to bring all those responsible for this heinous crime before the courts. People should be able to go about their business without fear of violence or attack.”
The murder is the latest in a number of stabbing incidents in the town. Earlier this year Shaun Fitzpatrick, who lived just yards from the Hughes’ house, was stabbed and beaten to death as he walked home from a night out.
SDLP councillor Vincent Currie said a group of yobs have been terrorising the town in recent months.
“No matter who you talk to this morning they are very shocked,” he said.
“This is the second time that this estate has suffered this year and it is indicative of what is going on in this community at the moment.
“It has to be dealt with now. The community at large is paying too big a price for the freedom of these 15 to 20 individuals. We can’t let them get away with it. We have to stand up and be counted, bring these people to justice and get them off our streets.”
Local MP Michelle Gildernew added: “The attack which took place last night was one of the worst I have heard of.
“The people who carried it out are a cancer in our society and the full force of the law needs to be used against them.”
Several areas around the Lisnahull estate remained sealed off yesterday as forensic teams combed a section of road leading into the estate, just off the Newell Road, near the murder scene.
A beige-coloured Avensis taxi, which was discovered burned out in the Ponderosa area of Dungannon, was also being examined by officers.
Eamonn’s father Frank, also a taxi driver, was shot dead by the UVF gang led by Billy Wright in October 1990.
His body was discovered burned in his cab after he was seen picking up a female fare at the Glengannon Hotel. The murder was later claimed by the Protestant Action Force, a cover for the UVF gang led by Wright (who later formed the LVF) that had selected Mr Hughes as a victim for murder hours after Protestant taxi driver William Aiken was shot dead in the grounds of the RVH.