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Thursday 23 November 2017

'One little girl was there when it happened and she's in bits' - Man shot in front of terrified school children was targeted in gangland feud

James Carlisle
James Carlisle

Deborah McAleese and Laura Abernethy

A man gunned down in front of terrified children as they left school was targeted as part of a gangland feud.

James Carlisle was hit several times in a drive-by shooting close to the gates of St Brendan's Primary School in the Moyraverty area of Craigavon, Co Armagh shortly after 3pm on Monday.

Teachers hustled children, some as young as four, back into the assembly hall in a bid to protect them after a number of shots were fired at Carlisle.

It is understood the victim tried to leave his car and then collapsed on the road in front of a school bus children had been boarding just moments earlier.

He sustained a number of injuries and was treated at the scene before being transferred to hospital. He was said to be in a stable condition last night.

He is well-known to police and has a series of violent criminal convictions, including for slashing a dog with a knife.

Carlisle was collecting his child from the school when fired upon from a car.

St Brendan's pupils from year one, two and three had just been released from school when the shooting took place in the quiet residential area.

As the commotion unfolded, locals from nearby houses ran to shield the children from the violent scene.

One mother said: "My wee boy was late home from school and I heard the ambulance go past. I looked out and saw the bus and I initially thought a child had been knocked down.

"I ran down and someone stopped me to say someone had been shot. My heart was in my mouth. I was so afraid that my wee boy might have seen what happened.

"One of the teachers ran and grabbed any children she could and took them back into the school, but I'm sure some of them did see something and they'll be traumatised. The man was lying in the road."

A neighbour added: "My niece was inside the school and the moment I heard I just ran to the gate.

"One little girl was right there when it happened and she is in bits. It could have been a child that was shot. The police were checking my garden for bullet cartridges. It could have hit anyone in the street or these houses."

A spokeswoman for St Brendan's Primary School said "all appropriate procedures were quickly and effectively followed in relation to the safety and wellbeing of our pupils".

The 35-year-old victim had been involved in a gangland feud with crime boss Hugh McGeough before the prolific drug dealer was shot dead alongside his wife Jacqueline (44) in their Legahory Court home in 2011.

She was shot three times and her 56-year-old husband once. Carlisle and his gangland associate Malcolm McKeown were charged with the murders, however a court dropped the charges in 2013.

Last year he was threatened at his Portadown home by an armed gang of foreign nationals.

Police said they believe a black BMW 525 Sport that was found on fire in Deramore Drive in Lurgan a short time later could be linked to the shooting.

PSNI Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said the area was very busy at the time of the shooting and police believe a number of people may have witnessed the attack.

"There are no words to describe the foolhardiness and complete disregard for the safety of the children and parents who were in the area at the time," he added.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: "This was in full view of young children and people are very distressed by this. I have spoken to the brother of one 10-year-old girl who is still crying.

"This is a built-up area and a bullet could have ricocheted off anyone and hit another adult or a child. This really was reprehensible and those responsible didn't care if anyone else was caught in the crossfire.

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd said it was a terrifying experience for pupils and staff.

Belfast Telegraph

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