Newtownards men Robert Ralph (47), Joseph Blair (35) and Alan James Wilson (30) and Ryan Graham Smyth (31) from the Bangor and Newtownards area were sentenced earlier today, Tuesday 29 January, at Laganside Crown Court for the murder of 35 year old Colin Horner in 2017.
Ryan Smyth and Alan Wilson were sentenced to 16 years in prison, while Joseph Blair was sentenced to 15 years and six months and Robert Ralph was sentenced to 15 years. All had entered guilty pleas to the murder of Mr Horner who was shot dead as he placed his three year old son into his car in the carpark of a supermarket in Bangor on 28 May 2017.
A man and a woman also pled guilty to withholding information about the murder and were sentenced today. Adrian Gordon Price (48) from Newtownards was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years and Terrie Aicken (24) from Conlig was sentenced to three months, which was suspended for 12 months.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter McKenna said: “This was a cold and brutal murder of a young man in front of his three year old son and I welcome today’s sentencing.
“On Sunday 28 May 2017 Colin Horner visited a local supermarket with his young child and after picking up some groceries they returned to his car. Colin had just finished placing his three year old son in his car seat when a gunman jumped out of a Ford Mondeo and ran towards them, opening fire with a handgun. Colin was hit several times and was left to die as the gunman ran back to the car which fled the scene and was found burning minutes later just a short distance away. Sadly Colin was rushed to hospital but did not survive the devastating injuries that he received.
“It is inconceivable that Colin’s son, who was just a toddler at the time, had to witness his father’s murder and this is a memory that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Colin was also the father of a little girl who was just two years old when her Daddy was taken in such a callous manner.
“This was a premeditated murder which I believe was linked to an ongoing South East Antrim UDA feud. The victim was followed throughout the day by a second vehicle, a black Ford Focus, in the lead up to his death and this enabled the gunman to pull up in the Mondeo at the supermarket and end Colin’s life in a matter of seconds.
“The thugs responsible for this murder are hypocrites who think they have a right to act as judge, jury and executioner. They do not serve the best interests of the community and they have no place in our society.
“This reckless shooting took place in broad daylight, on a bank holiday weekend in a busy supermarket carpark which was packed with local shoppers and their children. These killers gave no regard to the trauma that they were causing to those who witnessed the brutal execution. The very normal routine of families buying food for Sunday dinners, barbeques and packed lunches for the week ahead turned into a nightmare as bullets were fired across the car park.
“This has been a long and complex investigation by detectives I would like to pay tribute to Colin’s mother Lesley and his partner Natasha for their calm and resolve throughout the process. Colin was a much loved father, partner, son and friend and whilst no sentence can bring him back, I hope that these convictions offer some comfort as they cope with their grief."
Statement by Natasha, Colin’s partner: “I would like to thank my family and friends, PSNI, the PPS and court services. Knowing that the people responsible for Colin’s death are now behind bars is a relief for me, my daughter but more so my son as he now knows the "bad guys" are in jail and can't hurt him anymore.”
Statement by Lesley, Colin’s Mother: “On behalf of myself, my children and the Horner family, I would like to thank the police who worked so hard to bring my son’s murderers to justice. Also to the police family liaison officers for showing love and compassion at the worst time of our lives, we thank you.”
Detective Chief Inspector McKenna added: “This investigation remains open and there are others who were involved in the murder of Colin who have not yet been brought to justice. No little boy should ever have to witness the murder of their father and I would appeal to anyone with any information about the murder to search their conscience and contact police on 101 or if they want to speak confidentially to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”