Detectives investigating the murder of Brian McIlhagga in Ballymoney have today (Thursday) renewed their appeal for information on the second anniversary of his death.
The 42-year-old father of five was beaten and shot by a group of masked men who dragged him from a house in Riverview Park just before 10.30pm on January, 5 2015.
A 33-year-old woman who lived in the house was also assaulted by the gang and four children in the property were traumatised.
Brian was shot in both legs outside the house. Tragically, he died at the scene. The attackers are believed to have made off along a walk way running along Riverview Park in the direction of Ballymoney train station.
Brian was from Ballymena and worked as a plasterer. He was a friend of the woman who lived in the house and had been a visitor in the months leading up to the attack.
Detectives from Serious Crime Branch have made 12 arrests since Brian’s death. No-one has yet been charged, however, a team of officers continue to actively investigate his murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey, who is leading the investigation, said: “Today is the second anniversary of Brian’s murder and our thoughts are foremost with his family, his parents, his five children and friends who are still grieving.
“We are continuing in our efforts to bring those responsible for this heinous crime to justice and I would ask that anyone with information, no matter how small, comes forward to police.
“We are in no doubt that there are a number of people in the community who know the identity of those involved in Brian’s murder and I would urge them to look to their consciences.
“I ask them to place themselves in the shoes of those young children in the house that night - three of them all under the age of 13 were upstairs and there was a 13 year-old downstairs in the living room - when four masked and armed individuals came in through the front door. Brian was then viciously and brutally assaulted in the kitchen.
“These young children heard his screams of terror and pain while the violent injuries were being inflicted. That is going to affect them for the rest of their lives. The 13-year-old would also have had some sight of Brian lying injured in the front garden.
“I also ask people to take into consideration the level of violence used in Brian’s murder. The injuries sustained in that initial attack would themselves have been life-changing. They then removed him from the house and shot him in both knees with a shotgun.
“The level of violence and brutality in this attack was extremely disturbing and 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 also.
“I need people to think again about the events of that night two years ago and their impact on the McIlhagga family, not least his five children, and Brian’s wider circle of friends. The family needs closure and the community deserves justice.”
DCI Harvey warned that as long as those responsible for this attack remain at large, they represent a possible threat to anyone in the north Antrim area even though it is a largely peaceful community.
“This is a very challenging and complex investigation. I believe we have identified a number of 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,” he added.
“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. Nothing justifies this murder in any way whatsoever. People know who was involved. People know where they went afterwards. They haven’t come forward. They are protecting those killers. I would appeal to those with information, no matter how small, to contact detectives at Maydown on 101 or, if you do not wish to provide your details, please use the independent Crimestoppers charity number 0800 555 111.
“I want to appeal again to anyone who saw or heard anything in the area of the murder at Riverview Park and additionally in the area of Raceview Drive, Meadow View and Armour Avenue in Ballymoney between 10pm and 11pm on the night of Monday 5 January 2015 to contact police. I want to hear from anyone who saw men or vehicles moving in and around the area. Even though it’s two years on it is not too late to do the right thing.”