Early morning horror in a quiet city suburb
Harry Hayles climbed into a car with his 18-year-old daughter accompanying him on Tuesday for the daily school run — but they never reached their intended destination.
Within seconds that car ride transformed into a terrifying, life-threatening ordeal as a gunman riddled the silver Volkswagon with bullets.
It was just before 8.30am when the tranquillity of leafy Evelyn Gardens in north Belfast was shattered by the sound of gunshots followed by screams.
Both victims were rushed to hospital, Emma with stomach and hand injuries, her 47-year-old father with chest injuries, sustained in an attack described as “cruel, brutal and totally unacceptable”.
Shortly afterwards police found a burnt-out red van in Ballymoney Street, in the Oldpark area of the city.
But most PSNI activity was centred on the scene of the shooting, which officers had cordoned off.
Forensic teams combed the scene for evidence as the victims’ vehicle remained parked — both doors wide open — outside the family’s cream-coloured plush semi-detached house.
Two crumpled sheets covered the windscreen smashed in the attack.
Neighbours spoke of hearing the “bangs” and “pops” of bullets. One woman, who did not want to be named, described hearing the screams of people after the shooting.
“It was just before 8.30am and I heard the bangs,” the mother-of-three told the Belfast Telegraph.
“My husband was in the bathroom. He said to me pretty quickly that they were gunshots.
“I looked out the window, where our house is. My view was blocked slightly but I could just see the tops of heads.
“And I could hear screaming — lots of screaming.
“I had been getting the children ready to bring them to school. But the police were on the scene very quickly.”
Another man who lives just yards from the shooting said: “I was out of my house at 7.30am for an appointment, but heard about the shooting on the radio. I couldn’t believe it. I’m a pensioner and lived through the Troubles. You do think that this type of thing is all over and done with.”
North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness, speaking on Tuesday, condemned the shooting after he visited the scene.
“I’ve been talking to the neighbours, many elderly, who are very shocked about what happened here this morning at 8.30am.
“It is cruel, brutal and totally unacceptable and something that was well in the past.
“The reaction is one of shock and upset. People know one another, it’s a quiet neighbourhood, and people simply do not expect something as brutal and as horrible in this community.”