The mother of a nine-year-old girl who witnessed a gang of masked men shoot her father in the leg before stealing his legally-held weapons has spoken of the terrifying ordeal.
The west Belfast woman, who did not want to be named, was settling in at her Larkspur Rise home with her partner and their three children when three men burst through their doors at around 6.30pm on Wednesday.
Two of the children, aged 13 and 12, were upstairs at the time, although the youngest was in a room with her father when the horrifying ordeal began.
Once inside the masked gang members confronted the man and threatened the lives of two of his children. They then demanded that he hand over firearms he kept on the premises. It is understood the man belongs to a gun club.
When he refused the gang threatened to shoot him. They then demanded the weapons for a second time, but he refused again. It was then that they opened fire on him in front of his daughter.
He was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to his leg. His injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.
Dissident republicans are being blamed for the incident, as well as a second firearms robbery on a house in the Ballymurphy area.
Three masked men broke into the home and forced the occupant to hand over several legally-
held weapons and ammunition. The incident occurred just 45 minutes after the first robbery. Police are investigating a link between the two.
Shortly afterwards officers on patrol arrested two men, aged 34 and 30, after noticing suspicious activity near Whiterock Leisure Centre. A car was also recovered.
Last night the mother of the nine-year-old girl condemned those responsible.
“When someone threatens to kill two of your children and shoots a member of your family in front of a nine-year-old girl, I don't think very much of them.
“This place doesn't need people like that,” she told the BBC.
Neighbours in the normally quiet Larkspur Rise area were stunned by Wednesday night’s events.
While no-one wanted to give their names, all said they could not believe the family’s home had been targeted by such callous thieves.
One woman, who lives a few doors down, told the Belfast Telegraph she was shocked by the shooting.
“It’s so unusual for something like this to happen in the street. It’s normally a very quiet area,” she explained. “We were just worried about the three children.”
Another neighbour, who has lived in the 10-year-old development for several years, said she was not aware anything had taken place until after the police had arrived.
“I heard all the sirens blaring down Suffolk Road, which is not unusual, but then they just stopped. It wasn’t until the police knocked on our door that I knew something had happened. I think it was all over in a matter of minutes.”