Aaron McMahon's hammer horror as gang beat him in front of wife and kids
A community leader and his family have spoken out about the terrifying moment he was viciously beaten by hammer-wielding thugs in his own home on Wednesday.
Aaron McMahon (45), who is known as the 'Lion of Clandeboye' due to his role as chairman of the Clandeboye Village Community Association, was working in the printing business below his house at around 4pm when two masked men burst through the doors.
His wife Michelle (43) and their twins Lawton and Tallon (7) could only watch as the men beat him with hammers and knuckle dusters, leaving him with injuries to his head and jaw.
But the family said they will not be intimidated and yesterday the local community, councillors and MLAs came together for a rally outside the McMahon home on the Clandeboye Road to show support for the popular father-of-three.
He said: "I heard the door slamming and within a few seconds there were two masked men on top of me. I went to the ground and then one of them was hitting me. I could hear my wife and children screaming."
Aaron has previously spoken out against paramilitary involvement in the community and believes that he was targeted.
Michelle said the attack was "horrific" and added: "My priority was to try and get the children away from it. I didn't want them to see that.
"I was screaming and the kids were screaming and I was just trying to get them upstairs."
Michelle called the police and believes her presence may have surprised the men as they stopped the attack and made their getaway in a blue van, driven by a third man.
Michelle said: "It was traumatising. It felt like it went on for a long time, but it was probably only a few minutes. In a way I'm glad I was there, because otherwise he could have been killed."
Aaron was hospitalised for treatment to facial injuries. His jaw and his head had to be stapled.
He was released late on Wednesday night and was recovering at home yesterday, but came out to speak to the hundreds of people who gathered in the support rally at his doorstep last night.
Aaron said that it was the latest in a series of incidents involving intimidation by paramilitary groups. He said that in March, six paramilitary flags were put up and during the summer this group tried to take over the annual community bonfire. The Clandeboye Village Community Associaton had stood up to this group.
Although Aaron said he was frightened by what had happened, he added that he would not be cowed and he hoped political leaders will now take action to deal with the problem.
He said: "It is really up to them now. I hope they will take the lead on this and not continue to force unpaid community workers and volunteers.
"I reaped the rewards of being forced to take the lead on this yesterday and that should not have been the case. These are political matters and policing matters. They should not be for me to resolve."
Yesterday politicians united to condemn the attack.
Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said Aaron was a friend and he was very shocked by the incident.
"Aaron is a tough character but, like anyone, he's very shaken up by the experience," he said.
"He is determined to carry on with the work that he does. He has been a fantastic servant to the community, which has given a voice to residents in that area.
"It's very disheartening to see someone who has stood up for his community be targeted in this way.
"I think we need more people like Aaron in our community. He is one of the good guys.
"There have been issues in Clandeboye that he has helped turn around. People recognise that and we want to show our appreciation and to show those who carried out the attack that they have no support."
North Down DUP MLA Peter Weir said: "I am appalled and disgusted at the vicious attack.
"Aaron was submitted to an attack by hammer-wielding thugs with the clear implication that those who carried it out have had paramilitary links.
"This vile attack will shock everyone in North Down and must be condemned in the clearest possible terms.
"Aaron has been a dedicated community worker representing in his own time the people of Clandeboye, an area which has always rejected paramilitaries.
"Now it appears that he is being attacked for standing up for local decent people.
"An attack on Aaron is an attack on all decent people in North Down and we will collectively stand with Aaron and not allow ourselves to be intimidated by such thuggery."
Police said that a 32-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary in connection with the incident.
He was released on police bail pending further enquiries.
They appealed to anyone who may have noted any suspicious activity in the area or have seen a blue van making off from the scene to contact detectives on the non-emergency number 101 or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.