The hunt goes on for brutal killers of Brian McIlhagga

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Detectives investigating the murder of Brian McIlhagga have renewed their appeal for information on the first anniversary of his death.

The 42-year-old Ballymena father of five was beaten and shot by a group of masked men who dragged him from a house in Riverview Park, Ballymoney, just before 10.30pm on January 5, last year.

He was shot in both legs outside the house and died at the scene.

A 33 year-old woman who lived in the house was also assaulted by the gang and four children who were in the property were traumatised.

The attackers are believed to have made off along a walk way running along Riverview Park in the direction of Ballymoney train station. Brian, who worked as a plasterer, was a friend of the woman who lived in the house and had been a visitor in the months leading up to the attack, police said.

The officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey, said it had been a challenging 12 months: “Our thoughts today are foremost with Brian’s family, his five children, his parents and friends. We are also mindful of the four children in the Riverview Park house last year and their ordeal.

“The level of violence and brutality in this attack far exceeds anything I’ve experienced in 29 years of police service. One would have to ask why such a level of brutality was used.

“There was certainly paramilitary involvement in this attack but another line of enquiry is that there may well have been some sort of personal grudge as well,” he said.

Despite making 12 arrests and conducting numerous searches, police have so far been unable to bring those responsible before a court.

DCI Harvey said: “One of the most disappointing aspects of this inquiry to date has been the lack of people who have come forward. To those who have, I thank them.

“It may be that the shadow of paramilitary involvement which hangs over this incident is putting people off coming forward. But I would say to those people with information - put yourselves in the place of those children, Brian’s friends and family and the trauma they’ve been through.

“It is important for people to come forward. I would say we are tantalisingly close to placing the offenders before a court. Nothing justifies this murder in any way whatsoever.

“This is a very challenging and complex investigation. I believe we have identified the suspects who attacked Brian and I believe we have identified a group of other individuals who were on the periphery of that attack and I would appeal to all members of the community, to anyone with any information, to come forward and help us to bridge that evidential gap, to cross that line and place those people before the courts.”