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Brian McIlhagga's friend recalls 'nightmare' of father-of-five's brutal killing as PSNI appeal for more help

By Cate McCurry

Published 05/01/2016

Ashley Craig, the partner of Brian McIlhagga
Ashley Craig, the partner of Brian McIlhagga
Ashley Craig with partner Brian McIlhagga who was shot outside a house in the Riverview Park area of Ballymoney last year
Police forensics at the scene of the murder of Brian McIlhagga

A friend of murder victim Brian McIlhagga has described the "nightmare" she endured as she watched the father-of-five brutally beaten to death at her home.

The Ballymena man was killed by a masked gang outside his partner's house at Riverview Park in Ballymoney last year.

The 42-year-old had been beaten and shot in the leg, but despite resuscitation efforts by neighbours, he died at the scene on January 5.

The detective investigating the murder said the level of violence and brutality in the attack is the worst he has encountered in some 30 years of policing.

Ashley Craig (33) made the comments as police today step up their campaign on the first anniversary of his death to find the group of UDA men who carried out the murder.

The mother-of-four was also assaulted during the attack, posted on Facebook: "Well 2015 started off as what I can only describe as a nightmare and the worst night of my life. So much has changed in the last 12 months for me and my wee men.

"It's definitely not been an easy ride but with the help, support & love of my wee mammy...I've somehow managed to keep going and try to be strong regardless what the last year has thrown at me."

As part of the renewed appeal, police will deploy a trailer with Mr McIlhagga's picture and details of his murder around parts of Ballymoney today.

Despite making 12 arrests and conducting numerous searches, police have been unable to bring those responsible before a court.

At the time of the attack, four children, all under the age of 13, were in the house.

The dead man's father has also been speaking about the "evil" killing. Ronnie McIlhagga said police had informed him about the renewed appeal.

He added: "I was told by another source these boys (the killers) have closed ranks, there will be nothing said among them and I would say anyone who maybe would have been looking to say something is scared to say anything. But we will see what comes out of this, if anything."

Mr McIlhagga said his family circle including Brian's five children - aged 11 to 22 - had tried to put a brave face on their first Christmas without him.

He said: "Life has to go on and the whole family has been supporting each other. It doesn't get any easier at this time of the year."

Mr McIlhagga added: "People always talk about this 'closure' thing but we never got closure.

"It has been a long year and I have had many's a thought but life has to go on and you have to try and keep the head above water and do the best you can, especially for the young ones.

"It was such an evil thing. The police report talks about how evil the attack was."

Detectives from Serious Crime Branch will carry out a leaflet drop in the area around Riverview Park and other parts of the Co Antrim town.

The officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey, said it had been a challenging 12 months: "Our thoughts today are foremost with Brian's family, his five children, his parents and friends.

"I would ask people to think about the level of violence used in Brian's murder.

"One would have to ask why such a level of brutality was used.

"There was certainly paramilitary involvement in this attack but another line of enquiry is that there may well have been some sort of personal grudge as well.

"One of the most disappointing aspects of this inquiry to date has been the lack of people who have come forward."

Anyone with information about the murder can contact detectives at Maydown on 101.

Belfast Telegraph

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