The distraught mother of the man who was shot dead in front of his young son by suspected UDA elements in Bangor on Sunday has revealed he had received three death threats from the terrorists.
However, Colin Horner told her he wasn't afraid of them. Surrounded by photographs of her 35-year-old son in her north Belfast home, his mother Lesley fought back tears as she said his determination to stand up to the paramilitaries had cost him his life.
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, a grieving Mrs Horner called his killers "the scum of the earth" and insisted she wanted to put the record straight about the "lies" that had been told about her son.
In her living room, where the blinds had been drawn and flowers and sympathy cards sat alongside candles on the floor, Mrs Horner confirmed that her son was a friend of Geordie Gilmore, the former UDA commander shot dead in a loyalist feud in Carrickfergus in March.
Police believe the Bangor shooting, in a car park outside Sainsbury's supermarket at Balloo, may have been linked to the Carrick killing. Mrs Horner said her son had moved home so that he could build a better life for his children.
She said that her three-year-old grandson Oscar, who witnessed the gun attack after being placed in a Nissan Pulsar car by his father, had called the killers "bad men" adding the words: "Bang, bang, bang."
"He said he thought his daddy had tomato sauce splattered on him," she added.
Immediately after the shooting, a female shop worker took Oscar into Sainsbury's to save him from the ordeal of having to watch any more of the gruesome aftermath of the daylight attack.
Paramedics gave Mr Horner CPR for some time before he was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Mrs Horner said Oscar was heartbroken to have lost the man he called his 'Hulk Daddy' as he stood over six feet tall.
She asked: "Who does this - shoots someone in cold blood with a three-year-old present?"
Police have described the shooting as "hugely barbaric" and said it would live long in Oscar's memory.
His grandmother said: "Hopefully he won't remember what happened to his daddy, but who can tell? There was talk that Oscar managed to get himself out of the back of the car but we've heard that a woman took him into Sainsbury's and told him that he could have whatever he wanted from the store, just to distract him.
"He picked two wee cars at about £2 each."
Mrs Horner said her son had lived for his partner Tasha, their son Oscar and daughter Ella who will turn three on Thursday week.
Ella suffers from Fragile X syndrome, which is a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities.
Mrs Horner said her son had been trying to turn his life around for the sake of his family.
She added: "As a teenager he made some bad choices and decisions.
"However, in recent years he realised this was not the way he wanted to live his life.
"He wanted better for himself and his family.
"He lost his life trying to change it for the better and for speaking out and standing up to the scum of the earth. As a mother I will not rest until justice is served for my beloved son."
Mrs Horner was clearly distressed as she spoke of seeing her son's body in the mortuary on Monday.
"That's something that no mother should ever have to see.
"But even with everything his killers did to him, he still looked like my big, handsome son.
"But I have lost him and his children have lost their father."
She said Mr Horner's extended family - his grandparents who are in their 80s, his brother and sister, cousins and aunts and uncles - were all struggling to cope at "this very difficult time".
Mrs Horner said that her son had told her not to worry about the death threats he received.
He moved home several times from Carrick to Belfast and on to Bangor to get his family out of danger.
She added: "He wanted to get away from everything. He wanted a life for him and his family because he loved his kids."
But she said the people who threatened Colin Horner wouldn't let him live in peace and groups of men were seen at his new home in the Co Down town. Police are also investigating reports that cars were spotted driving around the area where he lived.
Mrs Horner said her son told her he attended Geordie Gilmore's funeral and carried his coffin because of his friendship with him.
He's also understood to have messages about the killing on a Facebook page and the PSNI relayed one of the three death threats issued to Colin Horner after visiting his mother's house.
"He told me that he loved me and that he wasn't afraid of them," said Mrs Horner, who had just returned from holiday in Spain at the weekend when she got a telephone call to tell her that her son had been murdered.
"I crashed to the floor and cried but I don't remember much after that."
Mrs Horner hasn't been able to finalise plans for her son's funeral because his body hasn't been released by the authorities.
She is appealing to all the mourners to wear something blue in recognition of her son's love for his favourite football team, Chelsea. Mrs Horner branded the killers who shot her son in the back "cowards".
Mr Horner's partner Tasha had earlier gone on Facebook to angrily denounce the killers, whom she also described as "scum".
She denied initial reports that Mr Horner had little Oscar in his arms at the time of the shooting.
She said her partner had looked his killer in the face, eye to eye. "And I'm so proud of him for that."
She also said that his love for his family flowed "strong and deep".
Police hunting the killers of Mr Horner yesterday continued their painstaking trawl through CCTV footage from business premises in the Balloo Retail Park in the hope of finding fresh clues.
They're also trying to establish if anyone in the Sainsbury's car park may have captured the killers on camera.
The PSNI are also appealing to the public for phone and dashboard camera footage of the killers' getaway car - a red Ford Mondeo, registration number GKZ 7996, which was found burnt out on Kerrs Road between Newtownards and Bangor.
It's thought the car may have been following Mr Horner before the shooting.