Belfast Telegraph

Murder victim Brian McIlhagga's funeral delay: Grieving dad's anguish as body of shot man still to be released after autopsy

By Nevin Farrell

The grieving father of murder victim Brian McIlhagga said his family was taking comfort from the support shown by friends and neighbours following the brutal killing.

Ronnie McIlhagga (65) earlier made the heartbreaking trip to the mortuary at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital to formally identify 42-year-old Brian's body.

Yesterday afternoon, as family, friends and neighbours gathered to express their sympathy at the McIlhagga home at Cromkill Road just outside Ballymena, Ronnie said his son's body was still to be released for burial.

He said he was still awaiting the results of the post-mortem examination on the father-of-five, who worked as a plasterer.

Mr McIlhagga said the family had originally hoped to hold his son's funeral today.

But by mid-afternoon yesterday that was not looking likely, as the body hadn't been released.

And he said that coming to terms with the enormity of the loss of his son meant the grief was intensifying.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "Everybody is just shell-shocked, but we have had a lot of friends and neighbours round.

"We have no funeral arrangements yet because they have not released the body."

Speaking in the afternoon, he added: "I was up and identified him this morning and it was not nice.

"We are waiting on word, we hoped to have the funeral tomorrow but it is not looking that way now.

"I am stuck for words. We have had no post-mortem results yet. It has got that much worse today," Mr McIlhagga said.

Brian McIlhagga was visiting 32-year-old Ashley Craig at her home in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, on Monday night.

Ms Craig lives in a modern bungalow at Riverview Park with her four children aged 13 and younger, who were in the property at 10.30pm when at least three masked and armed raiders burst their way inside.

They beat her in the kitchen and forced her to lie on the floor.

Mr McIlhagga - known as 'Brick' to many of his friends - was dragged through the house and into the front garden.

He was given what police described as a "brutal, sustained and vicious" beating.

Two gunshots were fired, according to witnesses, and he was hit once in the leg.

At one stage, despite having been assaulted, Ms Craig was able to dial 999 to report the attack.

As police and ambulances raced to the scene local people tried to give assistance, but Mr McIlhagga couldn't be saved.

Yesterday morning - more than 36 hours after the attack - a police cordon was still in place around the house.

A PSNI spokesman said yesterday afternoon: "We are not in a position to disclose the results of the post-mortem on Mr McIlhagga at this time."

Background

No motive for the killing of Mr McIlhagga and the assault on assault on Ms Craig has yet been found.

Police say they are exploring all avenues, including possible paramilitary or criminal involvement.

Mr McIlhagga (42) was a father-of-five who was separated and lived with his parents at their home in Ballymena.

He worked for some years in Dublin before returning to live in Co Antrim.

He described his relationship with Ms Craig as simply "friends" and had been visiting her home in Ballymoney for some time.

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