Belfast Telegraph

UDA blamed for murder and beatings

Loyalist paramilitaries may be behind a murder and spate of recent punishment attacks, police have said.

The outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA) has been blamed for a string of shootings and beatings across the North Antrim and Coleraine areas including the murder of father-of-five Brian McIlhagga in January.

Superintendent John Magill from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said: "We cannot discard the possibility that these incidents are linked and a strong line of enquiry concerns the involvement of loyalist paramilitaries.

"I also believe that the people involved in these offences may be closely aligned to the UDA."

In the latest incident, during the early hours of this morning, a man in his early 20s suffered potentially life changing injuries after he was shot in the legs and arms by four masked men who had forced their way into a house at Maple Drive in Coleraine.

Police believed the members of the same UDA gang may have been responsible for four similar attacks over the past three months.

They include:

:: The shooting of a man in his 40s after masked men arrived at a house on the Finvoy Road, Ballymoney on March 19.

:: The shooting of a man in his 30s as he sat in a car on the Dunluce Road, Bushmills on March 17.

:: The assault of a 45-year-old man by men armed with baseball bats in the Carnany Drive area of Ballymoney on March 15.

:: The murder of Brian McIlhagga,42, in Riverview Park, Ballymoney on January 5.

Mr McIlhagga, a plasterer who was originally from the Ballymena area of Co Antrim, was dragged out of the house in a quiet cul-de-sac, beaten and shot once in the leg in the front garden where, despite frantic resuscitation efforts by neighbours, he died.

A 32-year-old woman who was also in the house was battered and forced to lie on the kitchen floor while the shooting took place.

Mr Magill added: "These attacks are absolutely unacceptable and there is no place for this type of activity in a civilised society. I also know that the vast majority of people in Ballymoney and north Antrim do not support these paramilitary style attacks.

"I would ask for community support and information as we work to identify those responsible for the attacks."

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives on the non-emergency number 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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