Thursday 19 April 2018

'I tried so hard to save him' - young dad died in arms of wife after brutal murder

New IRA thugs shoot father-of-four three times in leg in 'punishment' attack and leave him lying in alley to bleed to death

Michael McGibbon and wife Joanne McGibbon
Michael McGibbon and wife Joanne McGibbon

Linda Stewart

Society must turn its back on the thugs dealing out their own brand of justice on the streets of Northern Ireland, it has been warned.

Justice Minister David Ford was speaking after the brutal murder of a father-of-four in north Belfast.

Michael McGibbon was left bleeding to death after being shot three times in an alleyway.

The 33-year-old taxi driver had turned up for a pre-arranged shooting on Friday night.

His grieving wife told how she arrived to find him lying in a pool of blood, adding: "I tried so hard to save him."

A priest said it was the 100th murder in an area to have experienced some of the worst ravages of the Troubles.

Yesterday detectives arrested a 34-year-old man in connection with Mr McGibbon's murder. He is understood to be dissident activist Dee Fennell.

The brutal killing has turned the spotlight back on the issue of so-called punishment attacks.

Police figures show that almost 100 people were injured last year after being shot or assaulted by paramilitaries.

West and north Belfast were among the worst affected areas.

In the last 10 years, a total of 855 people have been maimed in "punishment" incidents.

Last night Justice Minister Mr Ford said such violence had no role to play in a modern Northern Ireland. He said the community must unite in a show of defiance against paramilitaries.

"There is no place for paramilitary assaults in today's society," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The vast majority of our people want to move on and step away from what happened in the past. There must be a clear message sent out about the community uniting in condemnation of those who carry out this kind of crime."

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the killing was a dark reminder of the past.

"This callous and shocking murder appears to have the hallmarks of the paramilitary-style assaults which too often ruin lives and scar Northern Ireland," she said.

North Belfast priest Fr Gary Donegan said the murder had "destroyed" the McGibbon family. "From the highest heavens, people cannot condemn it enough," he said. Two men went to Mr McGibbon's home in the Crumlin Road area on Thursday night with the intention of shooting him in the legs.

When he refused to come out they warned him they would be back. It is reported that on Friday afternoon a prominent New IRA member from Ardoyne approached Mr McGibbon as he collected his children from school.

He was told to be at the alley at 10pm to be shot or face exile from Northern Ireland. His wife Joanne has described how her husband put a brave face on the planned attack. "Michael wasn't too worried but when he went I was thinking the worst. I was actually listening out for gunshots, although I didn't hear them," she said.

"I texted my friend to come down and sit with the children so that I could go and see if he was

"When I got to the alleyway he was just lying there with the blood pouring out of him. I tried so hard to save him."

Joanne described how she fought desperately to save her husband's life. But one of the gunmen's three bullets had struck an artery in his thigh and he bled to death in her arms.

It is understood that detectives are looking at the possibility that he was dealt with more severely because he told police on Thursday that he was under threat.

When two armed New IRA members arrived at his house, he refused to come to the door and phoned the PSNI for help.

"I just knew they wanted to harm him very badly," Joanne said. "It just doesn't feel real. It is horrific. He was such a quiet man who worked hard for his family.

"I don't know what type of people there are in this world."

Detective Superintendent John McVea said the shooting had robbed a family of a treasured husband and father.

"There is nothing that can justify or explain the senselessness of this murder. And let's be clear, that is what we are talking about here, murder," he said.

"Those who carried it out have no legitimacy in this community and today I am asking the community to help us find them. Help us bring justice to the McGibbon family."

Belfast Telegraph

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