Northern Ireland’s footballing fraternity has been left in shock over the murder of former Irish League player David Mills, who died after a vicious attack on a night out.
Police in Ballynahinch have launched a murder investigation after the 47-year-old father-of-two died in hospital following an assault outside a fast food takeaway in the town in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The painter and decorator, from Dundrum, was celebrating with colleagues from Drumaness Cricket Club after he played his part in saving the Co Down team from relegation.
He left a bar in Ballynahinch at around 12.30am and asked friends driving him home to stop at the fast food takeaway on Dromore Street in the town.
It was here that he was subjected to a serious assault which left him with severe head injuries.
He died in hospital surrounded by his family nine hours later.
Mr Mills was a former Irish League footballer who played for Portadown FC and Lisburn Distillery during his career, which ended in the mid 1990s.
Well-known in footballing circles, he was also a keen cricketer and still played for Drumaness on occasion.
“David played for us on Saturday, along with his brother Alan, against Millpark,” said Brendan Gilston, chairman of Drumaness Cricket Club.
“Davy was out — just fellas out enjoying themselves. He was always the life and soul of the party.”
A 30-year-old man arrested on suspicion of the murder was being questioned last night.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police can confirm that the man who sustained fatal head injuries as a result of a serious assault in Dromore Street, Ballynahinch, in the early hours of Sunday was 47-year-old David Mills from the Dundrum area.
“A murder investigation is ongoing.”
She added: “A 30-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is currently helping police with their inquiries.
“Detectives would appeal to anyone who witnessed the incident to contact them at Newtownards police station on 0845 600 8000. Information can also be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie echoed that appeal yesterday.
She said: “This is an incident totally out of keeping with the normally peaceful nature of the town.
“This man’s family now deserve justice for their loved one and I would join the police in asking for anyone who witnessed the attack or who has any information to come forward immediately.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family at this awful time.”
SDLP councillor for the area, Patsy Toman, who knows Mr Mills’ family, said: “This is a terrible day for the whole community.
“The man involved and his family are good people, heavily involved in community and sporting life around Drumaness. I extend my sympathies and those of the party to the family and all those touched by this tragic incident.”
Ulster Unionist MLA for South Down, John McCallister, added: “The local community is shocked that something like this could take place in Ballynahinch.
“My sympathies are with his family at this dreadful time, and I would urge anyone who saw anything, or who can assist the police, to come forward.”