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Gun gang targets Derry man at home of seriously ill mother

Áron Thornton does not know why he was targeted by gunmen.
Seamus McKinney

A Derry man who once cradled his best friend as he died after a dissident shooting has been targeted in a gun attack at the home of his seriously ill mother.

Masked men fired three shots into a car belonging to Áron Thornton outside his mother's home at Dove Gardens in Derry's Bogside on Thursday night after they were unable to force their way into the house. One of the bullets went through a child's car seat.

In 2008, Mr Thornton was with one of his closest friends, Pizza delivery man, Emmet Shiels when he was shot dead in Derry's Creggan.

Mr Thornton was targeted again in 2011. Armed men, who attacked his mother's home, shouted that he was a “dead man” when they found he was not at the house.

Mr Thornton (30) has lived in Liverpool since the 2011 attack where he has settled down with a partner and family.

The Derry man said he had no idea who was behind the latest attack or why he had been targeted as he was no longer involved in the activities of previous years.

“My home is in England since 2011 but I came home to look after my mother. She was in hospital for six months. My mother fell and broke her hip and ended up in hospital and there were complications; she went through major surgery twice.

“I heard the gate being slammed open and my mother in the hallway roaring and screaming that there were masked men at the door. Just after that I heard three cracks and I went down stairs to see if my mother was ok because they were trying to get in the door as I got down stairs they ran off,” he said.

Mr Thornton said the masked gang would have known how ill his mother was but still targeted him at her home.

The Derry man said he didn't know why he was targeted as it was known that he was no longer involved in illicit activities.

“What happened in the past is in the past. Everything's changed and I'm a changed person; people change. I have a better life in England and I'm only here now because my mother is so seriously ill,” he said.

His mother, Carmel Thornton (53) has been suffering serious illness for five years.

An emotional Miss Thornton said: “I was going out to get water and I was in the hallway and I let a roar and they went but they broke all the windows in the car.

“I want an end to all this. I can't take anymore. It happened before and they threatened Áron but Áron's all right now. He's been here for me through my illness.”

A PSNI spokesman said police were called to investigate a report of criminal damage.

Chief Inspector Paul McCracken said: “Police are investigating reports that shots were fired during the incident.”

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said the attack was designed to intimidate and instil fear.

“Those who think they can take the law into their own hands should be utterly condemned by all,” he said.

Bogside Sinn Féin councillor, Patricia Logue also condemned the attack.

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