Friends and supporters of the four Co Down men jailed for more than 60 years for their roles in the “callous murder” of 35-year-old father of two Colin Horner, jeered and taunted his still grieving mother and partner.
Moments earlier they had watched as Mr Horner’s killers Alan James Wilson, Joseph Blair, Robert Ralph and Ryan Graham Smyth, laughed and joked, waved and gave the thumbs-up to family and friends before being led from the dock of Belfast Crown Court.
They were given minimum sentences ranging from 15 years to 16 years.
Then as Mr Horner’s mum Lesley, his partner Natasha and two of his aunts Angela and Heather fled the court in tears, his killers’ cheering supporters taunted that the sentences meant nothing to them.
Later still one supporter was overheard saying that while “they’ll be back, Horner won’t”.
Mrs Horner said that she felt justice for her son has been served after she watched four men sent to prison for over 60 years.
Speaking outside Laganside Court, Lesley Horner said that while nothing will bring her son back, those responsible for his death are now behind bars “for a very long time”.
She also said it was “extremely difficult” to deal with the verbal abuse directed at her and her family by supporters of the jailed men moments after the sentences were passed.
Holding back tears, Mrs Horner branded them as “scum” and said she was glad they were off the streets.
She said: “I know there are families out there who haven’t had justice ... I’m not saying we are lucky, luck doesn’t come in to it. The pain this has caused me and my family, it has just been excruciating.”
Mrs Horner also said her son will live on through his two children “and through me as I will keep his memory alive forever”.
She also slammed media reports that Colin was killed due to a loyalist feud, and instead said he was killed standing up to paramilitaries.
“He was a good boy and I would like to say, it was put out there about loyalist feuds and this that and the other. My son was murdered because he stood up to scum. He wanted to get on with his life and bring his kids up, but they wouldn’t leave him alone – and I’m proud of him.”
She also issued a warning about the dangers of paramilitaries, and in a reference to the murder of Ian Ogle in east Belfast on Sunday night, she said: “There’s another man killed the other night. It’s just crazy. It just needs to stop. Families are suffering. We are losing our sons, our children. It’s just not on. It’s pathetic.”
The Belfast grandmother said that while it was “extremely difficult” to attend court, she had to see justice for her son.
She said: “I just kept talking to Colin in my head and going ‘I’m doing this for you son, I’m going to do you proud, with dignity’.
Reacting to the verbal abuse outside the court, Mrs Horner said: “Just to see them again thinking they are tough men with their thumbs up saying ‘bye, we’re away to jail’.
“We had to be there to see them cuffed and actually physically see them being taken down. Colin is gone, my son is not coming back. Some families don’t even get justice so we are glad we got justice today.”
And when asked how Colin’s son Oscar was, Mrs Horner said: “He’s doing good. He’s a delightful wee boy and we will keep his daddy’s memory alive. I talk to him all the time about his daddy.
“I have a photo in my bedroom and he stays with me at the weekend and he got up and he went to me ‘granny’ and I said ‘what darling’ and he said to me ‘there’s my daddy in that photo’ and I said ‘yes darling’ and he said ‘I want to get into that photo to see my daddy’. It’s heart-breaking.”
Earlier Mr Justice Colton told the killers that while he was determining the minimum tariff each must serve before being eligible to apply for parole, they would always remain subject to their life sentences, and could be returned to prison at any time.
Mr Justice Colton said the murder of the father of two was “callous”, and made all the more serious as it was carried out in front of his three-year-old son Oscar, in a public car park and witnessed by ordinary people going about their lawful business.
The murder, said by the prosecution to have all the hallmarks of a professional contract killing, was committed by an unknown lone masked gunman dressed in black, who took just 20 seconds from beginning to end to carry it out.
Given a minimum of 16 years each for their roles in the shooting at Sainsbury’s Bangor supermarket on May 28, 2017, were, 30-year-old Alan James Wilson of North Green, Newtownards, and 31-year-old Bangor man Ryan Graham Smyth of Windsor Gardens.
Given 15-and-a-half years, and 15 years, respectively were Newtownards men, Joseph Blair, 35, of Shackleton Walk, and Robert Ralph, 47, of Donaghadee Road.
Sentenced along with them, but freed on suspended jail terms, on separate charges of withholding information on the brutal killing were 48-year-old Adrian Gordon Price, of Bristol Park, Newtownards, and 24-year old Conlig woman Terrie Aicken, from Green Road.