Three killed in Belfast shooting

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The Independent Online
Three people died in a Belfast shooting incident at the weekend when an off-duty member of the security forces shot two men and then turned the gun on himself during a domestic row.

Geoffrey Anderson, 35, first shot and seriously injured the mother of his four-month old twins in the early hours of yesterday. He then killed two men who were with her in her north Belfast home before shooting himself dead.

Last night the woman, Gina Blair, a mother of four young children, was described as seriously ill but stable in a Belfast hospital. She was shot in the face in the incident.

The gunman, a full-time member of the Royal Irish Regiment, was the father of the twins, but the couple lived apart. The chain of events began on Saturday night, when the couple met in a local club and had a row.

Anderson was ejected from the club and Ms Blair later went home with a female friend and two men they had met at the club. Already in the house were Ms Blair's brother and his girlfriend, who had been baby-sitting, while the four children - the twin girls and two boys, aged one and two - were upstairs asleep.

In the early hours of yesterday it appears Anderson telephoned the house and threatened to kill everyone in it. At this point police were called to the house. They spent half an hour talking to those inside, then left to try to trace the RIR soldier.

A complicating factor arose at this stage when a mob of about 30 loyalist youths from the Tiger Bay district burst through the peaceline and attacked homes and cars owned by Catholics near by. Windows in houses and cars were smashed.

About 20 minutes after the police had left Ms Blair's home Anderson arrived there, kicking open a door and shooting her in the face. Apparently believing that she was dead, he then killed William Doherty, 28, and Paul Martin, 33, before shooting himself. The other adults and the children in the house were unhurt.

A relative of Ms Blair's said: "They seemed to be getting on OK, but he had been on the telephone threatening to shoot her. Nobody can take it in. There might have been far more dead. He must have gone crazy. He kicked the door in and that was that. It's a nightmare."

One neighbour said that police could have done more to avert the tragedy, but the relative said: "There is no point in blaming the police. They did what they had to do, but somehow at the back of your mind you wonder if there was nothing else which might have stopped this."

Sharon Remwick, a neighbour, said: "Everybody is stunned, just dazed. The girl was devoted to her children. She moved in just before Easter ... We knew the boyfriend didn't live there, but he called every so often. It's such a shame, and you have to feel for the poor children."

The Royal Ulster Constabulary said: "After spending more than half-an- hour with the occupant, and having given her specific advice, the officers returned to the station and took immediate steps to try and trace the man and to make other inquiries. The man was not at the house at any stage when the police were present. Inquiries were still under way when he arrived at the home with the tragic results we all now know."