A former UDA commander who died after being shot in broad daylight as part of a loyalist feud had been seen in the public gallery in a court just hours before he was gunned down.
George ‘Geordie’ Gilmore (44), who died in hospital yesterday, was in his car when he was hit in the neck, torso and leg after several shots were fired at point-blank range by an unmasked gunman.
Police have launched a murder investigation following the attack that happened around 2.15pm on Monday in Pinewood Avenue in Carrickfergus’s Woodburn estate.
Eyewitnesses said a gunman fled the scene on foot, although two men may have been involved.
It also emerged that one of the bullets fired during the murder missed and went through the front door of a property.
Yesterday, the victim’s son George Gilmore jnr hit out on Facebook at those behind his father’s murder with a post that said: “RIP dad you’ll never be forgot love you always!! Murdered by cowards.”
Police were drafted in to provide a security presence at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital on Monday night as surgeons tried in vain to save Mr Gilmore.
Shortly before the shooting sources saw the victim in the public gallery at Belfast Magistrates Court as three men were remanded in custody after being charged with the attempted murder of a doorman at a Carrickfergus pub last Saturday.
The bouncer was seriously injured after being beaten with a fire extinguisher at the Royal Oak bar.
He remains in hospital with a blood clot to the brain and facial fractures following the incident, which has a suspected link to the feud.
There was a heavy police presence at the court and a PSNI helicopter hovered above the building during the lunchtime hearing amid fears of trouble between rival UDA factions.
Head of the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, said a link to the south east Antrim faction of the UDA was a “very strong line of enquiry”.
“It was a brutal murder, a reckless use of firearms in a built-up area,” he said.
“At least one of the bullets that was fired at the victim missed and went through the front door of a house and could have hit an occupant. We are appealing to try and bring the behaviour to a close and to try and solve the murder.”
The officer added that police believed there were potentially two gunmen involved in the murder. He said the men may have exited from an alleyway near Pinewood Avenue to carry out the attack, could have made off on foot and may have been wearing dark clothing.
He said that retaliation “is a possibility”.
“However, the police are working hard to try and prevent that from happening,” he added.
“At the moment a link to loyalist paramilitaries, particularly the south east Antrim element of the UDA, is a very strong line of enquiry.”
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the feud involved two factions of the UDA terror group.
“One side, in broad daylight and unmasked, have taken the opportunity to try to kill one of the Gilmore family,” he added.
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs urged the factions involved to remain calm in the wake of the attack.
“Let this be a learning point – stop the paramilitarism, bring it to an end, because it is ruining our communities,” the East Antrim representative said.
“I am fearful that others may wish to start a tit-for-tat war, but if that happens then everybody loses.”
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson appealed for calm following Mr Gilmore’s death and called on those behind the feud, which he said has been ongoing for months, to bring it to an end.
“My sympathy goes to the loved ones of the deceased,” he said.
“There is now a fear in the community that there will be more violence.
“More gunmen on the street is the last thing the public wants, so I would appeal to those behind this feud to bring it to an end.”
There has been a heavy police presence on the streets of Carrickfergus amid fears of reprisals after the shooting.
Just hours earlier the victim had posted on Facebook: “The days of the UDA putting people out of Carrick are over.”
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