Belfast Telegraph

Brian McIlhagga's father calls on killer gang to hand themselves in

By Nevin Farrell

The grieving father of a murder victim who was brutally beaten with iron bars before being blasted in the legs with a shotgun has appealed for the killers to give themselves up, saying: "I just hope they have a conscience."

Retired tobacco factory worker Ronnie McIlhagga was speaking at his home near Ballymena, just minutes after making an emotional visit to his son Brian's grave at the town's Cushendall Road cemetery.

Brian McIlhagga (42), a father-of-five, was murdered on Monday, January 5, 2015. His father was speaking after police made a renewed public appeal on the second anniversary of the killing.

Brian McIlhagga, who was separated, lived with Ronnie and mum Jennifer and in early 2015 had made the 25-mile trip to Ballymoney to visit a friend, mum-of-four Ashley Craig, as he had done over previous months.

At least three masked men broke into Ms Craig's house at Riverview Park around 10.30pm and after assaulting her in the kitchen they dragged Mr McIlhagga through the house and beat him with iron bars before shooting him in the legs.

Tragically, he died at the scene.

Young children were in the house at the time, and the brutality of the attack shocked detectives probing the case.

Ronnie McIlhagga (67) said: "The people who did it, personally there is no point in standing here calling them names, because it is not going to change anything. I just hope they have a conscience. What they did to Brian you couldn't do to a dog."

He told of his disappointment that despite 12 people being arrested there have been no convictions. He said: "As far as I am concerned there are people who know about it. Maybe there is a fear factor involved, but I would have thought if something was going to happen people would have spoken up by now.

"There are people who know, this wasn't just three or four men that did the deed. There are people in the background, got rid of clothes, footwear, or whatever.

"There must have been a personal reason or something behind it all, I don't know. I can't give you a reason. It is an emotional day for us especially. It would be nice to get closure. I was telling a neighbour I would love to sit in a courtroom and look at those who did this, into their faces."

Mr McIlhagga said family and friends had gathered at his son's grave on the second anniversary of the murder.

"I am just back from his grave. His mates have left tributes to him regarding Liverpool and Ballymena United and there are floral tributes. I met a girl there today I didn't even know. She was there deliberately to visit his grave and said they were pals since they were 16 and they were always very close.

"He was well-known. He was a character in his own right. He was a plasterer and worked in Dublin for a long time and then he came back home again."

Mr McIlhagga revealed he had not been able to say goodbye to his son the day he died because Brian was in such a rush. He revealed: "I would regret it, but that was the way it was and nothing is going to change it now."

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives at Maydown on 101 or, if you do not wish to provide your details, use the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.

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