Loyalist shot in front of his three-year-old son in supermarket car park

 A family tribute left at the scene of Colin Horner's death. Picture by Hugh Russell
Digital staff and Seanín Graham

AT least three shots were fired at a man moments after he had put his three-year-old son into his car in a Bangor supermarket car park, police have said.

The victim of yesterday's fatal shooting was James Colin Horner (35) who had been friends with Carrickfergus loyalist Geordie Gilmore who was shot dead in March.

Police said they believe one gunman was involved in the attack which took place yesterday afternoon when the the car park was thronged with bank holiday shoppers.

It has been suggested that some families connected to a loyalist feud in Carrick were rehoused in Bangor following Gilmore's killing.

Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said today that Mr Horner had been living with his partner in Rathgael and was known to police.

The senior officer said the victim had taken his little boy to Sainsbury's in Bangor at around 2.30pm yesterday in his black Nissan Pulsar registration XFZ 4706 and they had spent 10 minutes in the supermarket.

 Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell appeals for information. Picture by Hugh Russell

The pair returned to their car and after placing the child in the back seat Mr Horner was approached by a gunman armed with a handgun who shot him a number of times.

The gunman was wearing a hoody with the hood up and a face covering, DS Campbell said.

"His three-year-old son was in the car and was immediately beside his father when he was shot dead in front of him," he said.

"So it's a hugely barbaric act and something that will undoubtedly live with this young boy for the rest of his life."

The officer said at least one stray bullet had hit another vehicle in the car park and that the gunman made off in a red Ford Mondeo with fake plates displaying the registration GKZ 7996.

Police appealed for witnesses or anyone who may have dashcam footage of either the victim's car or the gunman's car to contact detectives.

The gunman's vehicle was later found burned out in the Kerrs Road area between Bangor and Newtownards.

 The road where the gunman's car was found burnt out. Picture by Hugh Russell

A politician who was one of the first people at the scene of a car park shooting has spoken of the "surreal" nature of the incident

Ulster Unionist North Down MLA member Alan Chambers arrived within minutes of hearing shots at Sainbury's car park in the Balloo Link area of Bangor.

"I was just metres away and at first I didn't know if it was a man or a woman but then I saw a man wearing a pair of shorts and trainers lying on the ground with about six paramedics around him,"" Mr Chambers said.

"A nurse was applying fluids through a tube, there must have been four or five litres... but after 40 minutes there was no sign of life.

"It was an absolutely surreal situation. On a sunny bank holiday weekend, as a man lay fighting for his life, people were walking by blissfully unaware of what happened carrying tins of paint and wallpaper under their arms.

"The car park had been full to overflowing and many people had to park on the public road so hundreds of people, including children, would have walked past."

Paramedics performed CPR on Horner for more than 40 minutes  but he was pronounced dead at the Ulster hospital in Dundonald.

Colin Horner (35) was murdered in front of his young son in Bangor

In a strongly worded statement released last night, police condemned the murder and spoke of the traumatic effect it will have on his young son.

Superintendent Brian Kee, district commander for Ards and North Down District described the killing as "reckless" and said his son could also have been killed.

"Our thoughts are very much with the family of the 35 year old victim at this extremely difficult time and I condemn this brutal, senseless and horrendous killing," he said.

"This cold blooded murder was carried out in broad daylight in front of families who were out enjoying this Bank Holiday weekend.

"The recklessness of this murder is all too evident. It is beyond belief that the gunman shot the victim when he was out with his son. This young boy witnessed everything and he will undoubtedly carry that memory for the rest of his life. We are very lucky that we are not also dealing with the death of this child today.

"The gunman also showed total disregard for the safety of the public, including other children, who were in the carpark at the time of the attack."

It is understood a getaway car used in the attack was found burnt out at Six Road Ends in Bangor last night.

The PSNI chief appealed for witnesses given the large number of people in the car park yesterday afternoon.

"The murder investigation is being taken forward by detectives and will be progressed over the coming days and weeks. At the centre of all of this we have a grieving family and local residents coming to terms with a brutal shooting in the heart of their community."

Loyalist George Gilmore was understood to be a friend of Colin Horner

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