Belfast Telegraph

Colin Horner's mum says he was killed because he wanted out of paramilitaries'

Mother of loyalist says godfathers who ordered outrage remain at large

By Allan Preston

The mother of murder victim Colin Horner (35) has paid an emotional tribute to him and told of how joining the UDA destroyed his life.

Speaking at her home in north Belfast, Lesley Horner (55) sat surrounded by pictures of her son and grandchildren.

She keeps his ashes under one framed picture in her living room, to feel close to him.

Having just endured taunts in court that the jailed killers "will be back, Horner won't", she was still dressed in a blue Chelsea football shirt with blue dye in her hair - a tribute to her son's favourite team.

"I can still see him coming through the door looking for his dinner," she said. "He could be stubborn and he was a wind-up merchant but he loved his family."

With four men receiving life sentences, Ms Horner said the family had received justice despite her belief others involved are still at large.

"I've spoken to other families who have been through similar things and never got justice," she said. "The prosecutors were fantastic but Colin's gone now and I have to live the rest of my life without him.

"Yes, they're behind bars for a long time. But as a mum it's hard. I have to take some comfort that four of them are away."

She still believes others should face justice. "There's not enough evidence to convict others, what can I say?" she added.

She branded constant taunting against her in court during the trial as "horrible" and "disrespectful".

"I've come across evil people in court, but also a lot of genuine people," she said.

"It nearly destroyed me in court having to listen to exactly what they did to Colin - I knew they shot him but not the full extent - without getting that abuse as well."

She said life has been "hell on Earth" since she first learned of the murder.

"Before this I had always worked full-time, now I just can't. You need medication to help you sleep and get through the day," she said.

"If it wasn't for my children and grandchildren, I might not be here. I just wanted to go with Colin, that's the truth of it."

Today, she gets uneasy during everyday activities like walking her dogs.

"I can feel scared I'm being followed and it's very difficult not to get angry about what they did to my boy," she added.

She said her heart now went out to the family of loyalist Ian Ogle (45), murdered by suspectedv UVF members in east Belfast on Sunday.

"When I heard about it I just thought: 'There's another family that have to go through the same thing, and for what?'

"I wonder how these people can be human, they obviously don't think the way normal people do."

The victim's son Oscar, now aged five, witnessed the murder.

"We hope he doesn't remember it," his grandmother said.

"He's been in counselling and he comes to stay with me every other weekend.

"I have photos of Colin everywhere.

"He would say: 'I want to go into that picture to be with my daddy'.

"How can you tell a five-year-old child your daddy's not coming back?

"Colin used to do painting and decorating so he thinks his daddy's up painting the sky, so we blow kisses up to him."

She added: "We'll fill his life with colour and do things his dad would have done with him like swimming.

"I don't talk to him about what happened, just the positive. I explain there are bad guys out there but there's a lot more good guys."

Yesterday the PSNI released CCTV footage of Mr Horner moments before he was killed walking and holding his young son's hand.

"That was tough to watch," Ms Horner said. "But it helps people see how cruel and barbaric this was. It was a Sunday morning with a father and son holding hands and going into a shop.

"Colin told me was getting death threats but he said: 'They're just scum. Don't worry, no one will touch me when I have the children'."

It was reported that the gunman had been wearing an electronic monitoring tag on his ankle at the time.

"It's crazy to hear details like that," said Ms Horner.

"When I was sitting in the courtroom I couldn't even believe what I was hearing is real."

Ms Horner told how her son was first recruited by paramilitaries as a teenager, a decision which dogged him the rest of his life.

"We lived in Carrick. Colin was about 14 or 15. I knew there was something wrong, as a mum you knew," she said.

"When he was 16 I could see the change in him, that's why I moved to Belfast to get him away from that. But he told me, 'Once you're in, you're in. You can't get out.'

"He told me he got involved as somebody was fighting someone in another organisation.

"So if he didn't join he was going to get beaten up. He hated it and tried his best to get out of it."

Horner moved back to Belfast to raise a family and later to Bangor to get further away from trouble.

"He was tortured and they just wouldn't leave him alone," his mother said.

"He'd come in for Sunday dinner and his phone never stopped.

"I offered to go and borrow money to buy him out, but he told me they wouldn't stop. They killed him at 35 and ruined my life.

"It's crazy to think teenage boys are still being recruited to paramilitaries in the same way Colin was. It just should not be happening in this day and age.

"As a parent, you can feel powerless. He had his so-called friends coming round to the house, but they weren't his friends."

She added: "I had Colin when I was 18 as a single mum. It was just the two of us for nine years. He was just a beautiful and lovable wee boy.

"In his teenage years he lit up the room when he walked in. He knew right from wrong.

"He said: 'I know you told me not to get involved but they get you'.

"They killed him because he wanted to be left alone.

"I think young boys in particular need to hear this. Please don't join.

"The paramilitary adverts on television disturb me. Who are these people who feel they have a right to play God?

"The 'big boys' who picked up the phone and ordered my son's murder, who are they? Who do they think they are?"

Belfast Telegraph

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