Northern Ireland

Sainbury's car park murder - four men jailed

Clockwise from top left: Alan Wilson, Joseph Blair, Ryan Smith and Robert Ralph
Image caption Clockwise from top left: Alan Wilson, Joseph Blair, Ryan Smith and Robert Ralph

Four County Down men have been jailed for life for their involvement in the killing of father-of-two Colin Horner.

The 35 year old was shot dead by a lone gunman outside a Bangor supermarket in May 2017.

His three-year-old son witnessed the shooting in a car park on Balloo Link in the seaside town.

Speaking outside court, Mr Horner's mother Lesley Horner said she was "not happy but relieved that justice had been done".

Police linked the killing to an ongoing South East Antrim UDA feud in which Geordie Gilmore was also killed in March 2017 in Carrickfergus.

The four men were about to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

However, defence lawyers asked for their clients to be rearraigned on the murder charge, as well as for possessing the gun used in the shooting.

Newtownards men Alan James Wilson, 30, of North Green, Joseph Blair, 35, of Shackleton Walk, Robert Ralph, 47, of Donaghadee Road, and 31-year-old Bangor man Ryan Graham Smyth, of Windsor Gardens, all pleaded guilty.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mr Horner was shot in front of his three-year-old son

Following their pleas, the judge told the men they would be jailed for life, "the only sentence open" to him in the circumstances.

However, he added that next week he would hold a tariff hearing to determine how long they would each serve of their life terms before being considered for release.

Mrs Horner, who was in court, watched as the defendants shook hands and gave the thumbs-up sign to friends and relatives.

At one point, she made as if to approach the dock, but was ushered away to rejoin her son's partner, Natasha.

'Dancing in the sky'

The north Belfast mother said there were "no words" to describe the sight in court.

"To actually look at them and see that they murdered your child and they're standing laughing and turning round to their supporters in the dock. It just demolishes you," she said.

"There's four useless wasters off the street. I just hope my son is up there looking down, dancing in the sky."

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Media captionColin Horner's mum Lesley warns young people not to join paramilitary groups

Mrs Horner told BBC News NI that she hoped the verdict would be a "message to any youngsters out there who are thinking of joining so-called paramilitaries - think again".

"Paramilitaries don't just destroy lives, they demolish lives," he added.

A murder charge against a fifth man, Adrian Gordon Price, 48, of Bristol Park, Newtownards, was not pursued by the prosecution and allowed to remain on the books, after he pleaded guilty to an additional count of withholding information about the murder between June and October 2017.

A 24-year-old Conlig woman, Terrie Aicken, from Green Road, pleaded guilty to a similar charge of withholding information in June 2017, after which the more serious charge of perverting public justice "by making a false statement to police" was also allowed to remain on the books.

They were later released on continuing bail, while their four co-accused were remanded into custody.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The shooting happened outside a Sainsbury's supermarket in Bangor

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