Neighbours 'cradled father and daughter'

Published Tuesday, 03 April 2012
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The first eyewitness account has emerged of a gun attack which has left a north Belfast father and his teenage daughter fighting for their lives in hospital.

Neighbours 'cradled father and daughter'
The father is thought to have been the target of the shooting in Evelyn Gardens. (© Pacemaker)

A resident in Evelyn Gardens told UTV of the moment the five shots rang out on Tuesday morning and the frantic efforts to help the injured but still conscious victims.

"I saw my neighbour cradling the victim who was in the front driver seat," said the man, who did not wish to be identified.

"I could see the young girl who was lying on the pavement, held by another neighbour."

Harry Hayles, 47, and his 18-year-old daughter were attacked as they stepped into their car by a lone, masked gunman who emerged from a van at around 8.30am.

Mr Hayles, who is believed to have been the intended target, was hit at least twice in the chest - his injuries have been described as life-threatening.

The young woman was shot in the stomach and hand and is critically ill, but stable, in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Both the victims were conscious but in distress and there was a small crowd of neighbours around them.


A neighbour spoke out as police continued their hunt for those involved in a shooting that has sparked widespread revulsion.

"I heard two loud bangs, followed immediately by a woman screaming and that was followed by the screech of car tyres," the witness continued.

"It was one of those things where you don't know what to do - I was taken aback. I felt powerless as to what I should do."

The attack took place as Mr Hayles was taking the girl to school.

Her mother witnessed a lone masked gunman open fire outside their home, police revealed. She ran out of the house and saw the gunman escape in a small, red van.

A short time later a similar vehicle, which may be linked to the attack, was found burning in nearby Ballymoney Street, in the Oldpark district.

Detective Chief Inspector Karen Baxter, who is leading the investigation, said it is too early to establish a definite motive for the attack.

"Both of them were very lucky to be alive. It is clear that the nature of this attack has no regard for humanity," DCI Baxter said.

"This is a built-up area, it's a residential area, I have no doubt early this morning there will have been people taking children to school.

"We are appealing for these people to come forward and speak to police - they will have vital information which will be important to progressing this inquiry."

A neighbour of the Hayles family, who lives opposite them, said she had just passed the car with her one-year-old and nine-year-old sons on their way to school when the gunman struck.

"I was very shocked," she told UTV. "I had just walked past before.

"It is very quiet up here, you don't really see many people about so I was a bit scared and a bit panicky when I heard about this."

Local politicians who have described the gun attack as "vicious" and "callous" are concerned so many children were on their way to school when the gunman opened fire.

Alliance councillor Billy Webb said: "It was a vicious and callous attack on two people in a residential area.

"I cannot comprehend the motivations behind such an attack. There can never be any justification for a crime like this."

Alban Maginness, SDLP MLA for North Belfast, said: "I have been talking to the neighbours around here, two elderly neighbours and they are very shocked about what happened.

"It is a cruel blow to the family and both people have been very seriously hurt."

Nelson McCausland, a DUP MLA for the area, said: "Whatever purpose lies behind this attack it must be condemned by all right-thinking people.

"There can be no justification for the use of guns by people intent on murder or serious injury."

Cllr Conor Maskey, of Sinn Féin, said: "It is a very serious and very reckless and an 18-year-old female has been shot in the process, so this is something that the community does not want or support and hopefully whoever did this will be caught."

Detectives hunting the gunmen have called on anyone with information, particularly anyone who saw a red van driving away from the scene, to get in touch with them.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
mick in belfast in Belfast wrote (1,032 days ago):
Steve in Belfast wrote (14 hours ago): Conor Maskey's comment is incredible - "an 18-year-old female has been shot in the process" The Process? Is that what we're calling attempted murder nowadays? Resign Maskey, you're no good to anyone. I agree Steve WHAT PROCESS ?The process of killing another Human being by a thug a mindless criminal.If the guy who was shot a criminal then leave it to the Police to sort out people can not take the law into their own hands although lets face it we all grew up in the troubles well most who make comments here I suspect did and it was not a nice time,despite our resolve to get on with life we had no choice really.Sure the British government made that clear and made it so costly and hard to leave NI to move out hence the resolve to stay and make good of what we have . But thats another story .I would assume MASKEY had the words of a Politician in mind when he said PROCESS ..... I dont know but surely someone carrying out such an atrocious act would have seen the girl,or maybe they or who ever just blindly fired in the direction .Whatever the case its very sad.I hope theres no retaliation we can not go back even to crime wars .one question tho wheres the cctv cameras!! WE NEED MORE POLICE ON THE STREETS .COPY to file in case UTV dont print this one
You know? in derry wrote (1,033 days ago):
So Tony in Belfast you know were the guns came from ? please let the P S N I know it would save alot of money and time and help get a conviction !!
Anthony in North belfast wrote (1,033 days ago):
Attacks of this nature(drug underworld) happen in ever city all round the world. It will happen again and again no matter how much it is condemned . These people don't care about human life , innocent or otherwise. As far as I can see from your report it was condemned by all the politicians including Conor Maskey but I think Steve is looking through blinkered eyes?
David in Portadown wrote (1,033 days ago):
An imperfect peace is much better than the mass murder we had 20 years ago, I think most would agree. There is some gun crime in most western cities.
Steve in Belfast wrote (1,033 days ago):
Conor Maskey's comment is incredible - "an 18-year-old female has been shot in the process" The Process? Is that what we're calling attempted murder nowadays? Resign Maskey, you're no good to anyone.
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