Jayne Toal Reat murder: Lisburn cul-de-sac stunned by Christmas Day tragedy
As children innocently rode their new bikes just yards away, a blood-smeared glass panel and a police car standing guard yesterday marked out Lisburn's Mornington Lane as the scene of a brutal murder.
Residents of the housing development looked on as a steady stream of police and forensic officers entered and exited the house that had been visited by horror just hours before.
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While the blinds were closed, concealing the scene inside, a distressing bloodstain could be seen streaked conspicuously down the glass beside the front door.
Despite the Christmas decorations hanging in front windows, there was an eerie stillness and sense of shock in the area.
Steps away from where the murder happened, an eight-year-old child proudly pedalled her new bike around the empty square, enjoying her present. Mornington Lane, which is situated beside a railway line, is popular with commuters and young families.
"The first we knew of it was when we heard the sirens and we nipped out. It was freezing and we saw the police arresting a man," the girl's stepfather told the Belfast Telegraph.
"We didn't realise how serious it was until it appeared on the news. It's a terrible tragedy for the family - they'll never get over it."
The gruesome knowledge that a life had been ended contrasted with a day in which families traditionally come together to celebrate. Neighbouring houses were still decked out with signs saying 'Santa Stop Here!' in their neat front gardens, while strings of fairy lights adorned the windows.
Another resident, the mother of a four-year-old boy, said she was thankful he had been too absorbed in his Christmas presents to notice what was unfolding right outside their front door. "We closed the blinds and he just saw blue lights flashing, so he thought it was all part of Christmas," she said.
"I was one of the first residents to move in here seven years ago.
"Nothing like this has happened here before.
"People are very private here. They would say hello, but they keep themselves to themselves. That's the way things are with newer developments."
Telecoms engineer Connor Totton (23), who bought his home two months ago, said he had been left "totally shocked" at what had occurred. "One of the reasons I bought the house was that I thought it was a quiet area," he said.
Police and forensic officers will soon leave, but shocked residents say that the traumatic events which unfolded in this quiet cul-de-sac have made it a Christmas mired in tragedy.
Many neighbours expressed their sympathy for the family.
"It's very sad for them on Christmas Day," one mum whispered as she answered her door, trying not to wake her sleeping two-year-old son. This is the last thing you would expect to happen. I hope that they get the strength to cope; it will be a hard time for them."