Kilkeel: Paschal Morgan targeted 'because he was Catholic', wife says
The wife of a man beaten in an attack in Kilkeel, County Down, said he was barely recognisable to his daughter who found him lying on the street.
Paschal Morgan, 48, a father-of-two, was assaulted on Sunday night.
His wife, Rachel, told BBC News NI he was targeted "because he was Catholic".
She said the building contractor would have been "left for dead" had his daughter, Shannon, not noticed him on the ground.
Warning: This article contains graphic images
It is understood police are treating the attack as a sectarian hate crime.
"If Shannon hadn't come when she did, I'm afraid we would have been having a funeral today," said Mrs Morgan.
A 34-year-old man was arrested but has since been released on bail.
Shannon Morgan was returning from a night out with her boyfriend at about 23:25 BST on Sunday when she came across her father, whom she had arranged to pick up on the way home as he was struggling to find a taxi.
When the pair noticed a white BMW parked in an erratic way with the driver door open, they feared there had been an accident and slowed down to help.
Rachel Morgan said that was the moment when her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend noticed a body on the ground "and a man over him".
"Shannon's boyfriend said: 'It's your daddy'," she said.
"Shannon was hysterical. She thought her daddy was dead and she could hardly recognise him with the amount of blood coming out of him and she couldn't get him to respond."
The man ran off when Shannon and her boyfriend pulled up.
She said her family cannot understand why they would be targeted for sectarian reasons.
"We've never ever had a problem with anyone in Kilkeel," she told BBC News NI.
"Most of my daughter's friends in the horse club would be Protestant. My husband employs Protestants. In my boutique I have Protestants working for me.
"So we can't believe that this would be a problem. But we've had loads of messages from the Protestant community saying they're disgusted at what's happened.
"I love Kilkeel and we've never had a problem in our lives and through the years it's got better and better."
Mr Morgan will require extensive surgery for his injuries as he sustained bruising to his brain, shattered eye sockets and cheek bones, as well as extensive head cuts.
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said Mr Morgan was the victim of a "savage attack" that had shocked the town's community.
SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley described the attack as "barbaric", adding: "Vicious and sickening sectarianism has no support in our community.
"It takes a sick and depraved individual to inflict the kind of violence that Paschal Morgan suffered on Sunday evening," she added.