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Belfast shooting victim Michael McGibbon died in arms of wife as she tried desperately to save him

Anguish of north Belfast woman after New IRA thugs shoot father-of-four three times in leg in 'punishment' attack and leave him lying in alley to bleed to death

By Linda Stewart

Published 18/04/2016

Michael McGibbon and wife Joanne McGibbon
Michael McGibbon and wife Joanne McGibbon
Joanne McGibbon, whose mother Margaret was cared for by hospice nurses before she died earlier this year, pictured at home in north Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Police officers back in the Ardoyne estate carrying out door to door enquiries following the murder of Michael McGibbon on April 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Man was shot three times in the leg in an alleyway at Butler Place close to Elmfield Street, near the Crumlin Road at about 22:05 on Friday. Photo: Aidan OReilly/Pacemaker
Emergency services at the scene of a shooting in the Elmfield Street area on April 15, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Emergency services at the scene of a shooting in the Elmfield Street area on April 15, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Emergency services at the scene of a shooting in the Elmfield Street area on April 15, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Emergency services at the scene of a shooting in the Elmfield Street area on April 15, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Joanne McGibbon
A forensic officer at scene of killing
The couple together

Society must turn its back on the thugs dealing out their own brand of justice on the streets of Northern Ireland, it has been warned.

Justice Minister David Ford was speaking after the brutal murder of a father-of-four in north Belfast.

Released: Damien 'Dee' Fennell
Released: Damien 'Dee' Fennell

Michael McGibbon was left bleeding to death after being shot three times in an alleyway.

The 33-year-old taxi driver had turned up for a pre-arranged shooting on Friday night.

His grieving wife told how she arrived to find him lying in a pool of blood, adding: "I tried so hard to save him."

A priest said it was the 100th murder in an area to have experienced some of the worst ravages of the Troubles.

On Sunday detectives arrested a 34-year-old man in connection with Mr McGibbon's murder. He is understood to be dissident activist Dee Fennell. He was released unconditionally on Monday evening.

The brutal killing has turned the spotlight back on the issue of so-called punishment attacks.

Police figures show that almost 100 people were injured last year after being shot or assaulted by paramilitaries.

West and north Belfast were among the worst affected areas.

In the last 10 years, a total of 855 people have been maimed in "punishment" incidents.

Last night Justice Minister Mr Ford said such violence had no role to play in a modern Northern Ireland. He said the community must unite in a show of defiance against paramilitaries.

"There is no place for paramilitary assaults in today's society," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The vast majority of our people want to move on and step away from what happened in the past. There must be a clear message sent out about the community uniting in condemnation of those who carry out this kind of crime."

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the killing was a dark reminder of the past.

"This callous and shocking murder appears to have the hallmarks of the paramilitary-style assaults which too often ruin lives and scar Northern Ireland," she said.

North Belfast priest Fr Gary Donegan said the murder had "destroyed" the McGibbon family. "From the highest heavens, people cannot condemn it enough," he said. Two men went to Mr McGibbon's home in the Crumlin Road area on Thursday night with the intention of shooting him in the legs.

When he refused to come out they warned him they would be back. It is reported that on Friday afternoon a prominent New IRA member from Ardoyne approached Mr McGibbon as he collected his children from school.

He was told to be at the alley at 10pm to be shot or face exile from Northern Ireland. His wife Joanne has described how her husband put a brave face on the planned attack. "Michael wasn't too worried but when he went I was thinking the worst. I was actually listening out for gunshots, although I didn't hear them," she said.

"I texted my friend to come down and sit with the children so that I could go and see if he was alright.in

"When I got to the alleyway he was just lying there with the blood pouring out of him. I tried so hard to save him."

Joanne described how she fought desperately to save her husband's life. But one of the gunmen's three bullets had struck an artery in his thigh and he bled to death in her arms.

It is understood that detectives are looking at the possibility that he was dealt with more severely because he told police on Thursday that he was under threat.

When two armed New IRA members arrived at his house, he refused to come to the door and phoned the PSNI for help.

"I just knew they wanted to harm him very badly," Joanne said. "It just doesn't feel real. It is horrific. He was such a quiet man who worked hard for his family.

"I don't know what type of people there are in this world."

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Dickson is urging the community to come forward with information.

He said:"This was a callous crime that robbed a wife of her husband and four children of their father. We want to be able to find the people responsible and bring them to justice.

"The support of the community and that local information will be vital in doing so.

"The incident room number is 028 90700303. Or you can phone the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111."

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