08 May 2006

Beaten teenager dies in hospital


Michael McIlveen died after being attacked in Ballymena

A 15-year-old boy who was attacked by a gang in County Antrim has died in hospital from his injuries.

Michael McIlveen and a friend were confronted by a group in an alley at Garfield Place, Ballymena, on Sunday.

A relative said the attackers hit Michael with a baseball bat and "jumped on his head". His friend escaped.

Michael managed to get home where the extent of his injuries was realised. Four men and a juvenile are being questioned about the sectarian assault.

The police have launched a murder inquiry.

The teenager had been treated in Antrim Area Hospital where his family had been at his bedside.

'Sectarian nature'

His aunt told the BBC he had been working during the day and had gone out to get a pizza. He was just leaving the restaurant when he was attacked at about 0030 BST.

She believes he was targeted because he was a Catholic.

The police district commader for Ballymena, Superintendent Terry Shevlin, said the motive for the assault "was of a sectarian nature".

He said there appeared to have been an initial "altercation" at a cinema in the town, before the victim was chased to the scene of the attack.

Mr Shevlin said police had increased patrolling in Ballymena, but said the community had to do more to combat sectarianism.

Secretary of State Peter Hain said it was a "sickening sectarian attack" which dragged Northern Ireland "back to the dark days of the past".

"His family are grieving tonight and my thoughts are with them at this terrible time," he said.

"Those who are responsible for this murderous attack must be brought to justice and anyone with any information must bring it to the police."

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