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Police renew Brian McIlhagga murder probe appeal

By Allan Preston

Police have renewed their appeal for information over the brutal murder of a Ballymena man two years ago today.

Brian McIlhagga, a 42-year-old father-of-five, suffered a shockingly violent death at the hands of masked men just before 10.30pm on January 5, 2015.

He was dragged from a house in Riverview Park in Ballymoney by a suspected UDA gang and shot in both legs outside.

A plasterer from Ballymena, Brian had been visiting a friend, 33-year-old Ashley Craig.

She was also assaulted during the attack and four children under the age of 11 in the house at the time were left traumatised.

Police say his attackers made off along a walkway running along Riverview Park in the direction of Ballymoney train station.

Although 12 arrests have been made by detectives in Serious Crime Branch, there has never been enough evidence to bring anyone to court.

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey, who is leading the investigation, said: "We are in no doubt that there are a number of people in the community who know the identity of those involved in Brian's murder and I would urge them to look to their consciences.

"I also ask people to take into consideration the level of violence used in Brian's murder.

"The injuries sustained in that initial attack would themselves have been life-changing.

"They then removed him from the house and shot him in both knees with a shotgun.

"The level of violence and brutality in this attack was extremely disturbing and 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 also."

DCI Harvey urged people with information who were intimidated by "the shadow of paramilitary involvement" to "put yourselves in the place of those children, Brian's friends and family and the trauma they've been through".

"I want to appeal again to anyone who saw or heard anything in the area of the murder at Riverview Park and additionally in the area of Raceview Drive, Meadow View and Armour Avenue in Ballymoney between 10pm and 11pm on the night of Monday, January 5, 2015 to contact police. I want to hear from anyone who saw men or vehicles moving in and around the area," he said.

"Even though it's two years on, from Brian's murder it is not too late to do the right thing."

Detectives at Maydown police station can be contacted on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

On the first anniversary of Mr McIlhagga's death last year, Ms Craig posted on Facebook describing his death as "a nightmare and the worst night of my life".

She has since suffered further personal tragedy after a serious car crash left her paralysed from the neck down on February 8 last year.

Posting again on Facebook days ago, she said: "Life can change in the blink of an eye so never take even the simplest of things in life for granted."

Last January, Mr McIlhagga's father Ronnie also spoke about the "evil" killing.

"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," he said at the time.

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

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