Loyalists shoot dead pregnant woman in front of her baby

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A SEVEN-MONTHS pregnant Catholic woman was murdered in front of her sleeping baby by loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland yesterday. Kathleen O'Hagan died in a hail of bullets as she cowered in the corner of the bedroom of her isolated bungalow. Her 18-month-old son was in a cot in the room.

At 4am yesterday her husband, Patrick, 40, returned home from a family reunion to find the couple's four older sons, aged from eight to four, cradling their mother's body.

Last night even churchmen and politicians hardened by years of violence were shocked by the ferocity of the attack on Mrs O'Hagan, 38, which was later claimed by the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Their statement to a local radio station said that Mrs O'Hagan, who they alleged had republican sympathies, had been 'executed' by their mid-Ulster 'active service unit', and that Mr O'Hagan would have been killed had he been at at home.

Mr O'Hagan was convicted of possessing arms and explosives during the mid-Seventies and served a jail term at the Maze.

'We in the UVF will show republicans how hard it is to listen to a diet of peace while they wage the deadly deed of war,' the statement said. 'Brace yourselves for death because you are going to see plenty of it.'

The murder was linked to the massacre of seven workmen who were blown up by an IRA bomb at Teebane in January 1991.

Late on Saturday night or in the early hours of yesterday the gunmen, using a sledgehammer, smashed their way into the rear of the bungalow near Creggan, 12 miles south of Omagh, Co Tyrone, while Mrs O'Hagan was in bed.

A local priest who visited the home, Fr John Ryder, said: 'As far as I could see those who did it smashed through her back door. The glass was all over the porch inside. They came up to her bedroom and shot her there in front of one of the children.

'Some of the bullet marks struck the wall above the baby's cot. She was huddled there on the floor in the corner of the bedroom.

'I would have expected the children would have heard those who did it coming in when they broke the door and she would have done her best to protect them.' Mr O'Hagan returned to find her, the four boys, and baby Thomas in the blood-spattered room. At least a dozen bullet holes peppered the bedroom wall.

Family friends said a 10p piece had been found on the dead woman's forehead, but it was not clear whether this had been simply dropped by the killers or put there deliberately.

A Royal Ulster Constabulary spokesman at the scene said the killing was 'savage, barbaric and totally unjustified, cold-blooded murder'.

Barry McElduff, Sinn Fein's mid- Ulster representative, demanded an inquiry into events leading up to the shooting, claiming a number of people in the area had been visited by police and advised to tighten security.

(Photograph omitted)