`We thought the shooting in this country was over. It's the children you feel sorry for'

 

WE'RE not afraid! We're not afraid!" the children yelled in Robina Street in north Belfast yesterday. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon with not a ray of sunshine in the sky but the youngsters were making the most of it.

Two boys kicked a football about the road. A toddler rode her bike along the pavement. A little girl surveyed the world from the red white and blue kerbstones, just waiting to be touched up for the Twelfth.

In the small rows of red brick houses, the adults were more high "I can't believe it," said one neighbour. "Gina was such a nice girl. She was devoted to her kids. It's terrible to think that something like that can happen around here."

Robina Street is used to an argument. "They can't hold their drink on a Saturday night," says another resident. "They'll be out on the street rowing and fighting." But nobody was ever killed in Robina Street before.

Gina Blair has four young children infant twin girls who suffer from severe asthma and two sons aged one and two.

Gina, who was unemployed, liked a bit of craic. She went out to a social club on Saturday night. She argued with her boyfriend, a full time member of the Royal Irish Regiment, who was thrown out when he became aggressive.

He telephoned her home where her brother and his girlfriend were baby sitting. He threatened to kill everyone in the house. The police were called.

Gina returned home with four friends two men and two women whom she had met in the club. RUC officers arrived and talked to her about the threat for half an hour. They left. Twenty minutes later, Gina's boyfriend kicked in the door and shot her with his handgun.

She fell to the ground and he thought she was dead. He then killed the two male visitors. He tried to shoot one of the women. She nearly broke her arm trying to escape him. Finally, he turned the gun on himself.

"He just didn't seem that type of fellow but then you never "really know what is going on inside somebody's head", said "Gina's uncle.

Tommy English, a representative of the Ulster Democratic Party, the UDA's political wing, lives across the street. "Gina's boyfriend looked like a normal big lad. He didn't seem aggressive or anything like that", he said.

"You would see him calling to the house and driving away with Gina and the kids. They all seemed so happy."

Other neighbours said the soldier was stationed at barracks in Omagh, Co Tyrone. Gina was" taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where her condition is "critical but stable".

Relatives were caring for her children. Another neighbour Sharon Remwick, said Everybody is stunned, just dazed, by what happened. Gina was devoted to her children."

Gina's uncle said he did not blame the RUC for leaving the house after they visited following the threat. "The police 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. It's a tragedy, an awful tragedy."

The venetian blinds were drawn on Gina Blair's home yesterday. "We thought the shooting in this country was over," said a neighbour. "It's the children you feel sorry for."