Londonderry teenager says he was haunted by paramilitary attack
A Londonderry teenager who tried to take his own life after witnessing his father being shot by paramilitaries has said more victims should go public about the impact of the attacks.
The 19-year-old, who wished to be known only by his first name, Paul, says the impact the shooting had on him and his family was catastrophic.
His father was shot in the legs in their Creggan home in 2014 after two masked gunmen burst into their house and opened fire as he dozed on the sofa. Paul, then only 14, was assaulted by one of the gang as he tried to flee to safety.
He said: "I heard a big loud bang and I thought it was my friends playing a joke.
"Then I heard a big thump on the wall and the living room door burst open. I remember just seeing this mountain of a man dressed all in black standing there.
"He was at least 6ft tall and was wearing full black gear, face mask, everything. You couldn't see anything apart from a tiny bit of his eyes.
"He came towards me and I saw a silver thing in his hand.
"He shouted, 'where is he?' and I said, 'who?'.
"Then he walked over to the sofa, pulled the blanket off dad, saw his face and said, 'there you are'.
"The masked man came back and stood beside me, lifted his hand and fired three shots at my father."
Paul said he panicked and ran for the front door, but was grabbed by another masked man, who struck his head off the door frame before throwing him back into the house.
Paul fled upstairs and pushed his terrified stepsister back into her bedroom and barricaded the door.
After firing two more shots, the men left the house and Paul went downstairs. He recalled: "My dad was laying there and the blood was just soaking his grey tracksuit bottoms and dripping down to the floor.
"He was still conscious and he was reassuring me that it was okay, but I was so scared, and I was so traumatised watching it all."
Paul needed stitches for a head wound, and also suffered psychologically, feeling afraid to leave the house and also developing anxiety.
Aged just 14, he tried to take his own life.
He explained: "I locked myself in my room for three months. I couldn't sleep. I thought constantly that people were coming for me. It's all I could think of, that they were going to kill me. I was so petrified.
"All I could think about was suicide and that I didn't want to be here anymore.
"I attempted to take my own life. I thought, why should I give those people the pleasure of killing me if I could do it myself?
"All these weird thoughts were going through my head. I just couldn't cope."
Paul said that a youth worker from the Rosemount Resource Centre reached out to him in his darkest hours and essentially saved his life.
"He got me involved in the centre and I met new people and I eventually went back to school.
"The centre saved my life and made me realise that there are people out there who can help."
Paul, now himself involved in helping young people through their difficulties, has this message for paramilitaries who take the law into their own hands.
"They are not helping, they are making matters worse. If someone is doing something wrong, let the police catch them."
He continued: "I can imagine an Ireland without these vigilante gangs, but it won't be in my lifetime, or my children's lifetimes.
"The more people who speak up and tell their stories about what happened to them, then perhaps these people will realise what they are doing is wrong.
"I want the people who did this to me to realise what they have done, how they have affected my life.
"I hope they think about it and I hope that means it will end some day.
"I want people to speak up, speak out, tell their stories and hopefully together we can make it stop."