Newry man Collie McDonald is recovering after he was shot this week in what police are treating as an attempted murder.
The Sunday World can reveal that McDonald was the target of a planned assassination by members of a criminal gang that has cross-border connections.
And, according to Sunday World sources, McDonald knew his would-be killer, who he recognised as the gunman fled the scene.
Underworld sources, however, have confirmed that McDonald remains a marked man.
“As soon as he saw the gunman, who he says didn’t even wear a mask, he knew. He ran for his life,” one source said.
“This was a planned hit, it was not a punishment shooting, he was lucky his head was not blown off. He knows the face of the man who wanted to kill him. As I said before, he didn’t bother to wear a mask, the industrial estate was deserted and McDonald was supposed to be dead.”
Another added: “He was lucky this time, but he remains a target.”
McDonald was charged last month with possession of a gun.
The PSNI was called to the scene of the shooting at the Carnbane Industrial Estate at around 11.55am on Tuesday.
While police say there are no further details about the shooting, it is understood that McDonald was lured to the scene.
The Audi car used in the attack was found burning in a field around one mile from the border.
Searches for any evidence, including the weapon, were carried out in the surrounding area.
An eyewitness saw the gunmen jump from the Audi before setting fire to it and getting into a second car that drove off in the direction of the border.
McDonald, from the Drumalane Road in Newry, was charged with having a firearm in suspicious circumstances on December 2, 2021.
He appeared in Lisburn Magistrates Court by videolink from police custody accused of hiding the gun close to a park.
When questioned by police, the 29-year-old claimed he was there to “feed the ducks”.
Giving evidence during a contested bail application, Detective Constable Murphy said police were objecting to bail due to fears that McDonald, who has “links to organised crime”, may commit further offences.
He outlined how two plain clothed officers on the Green Road in Bessbrook spotted “suspicious activity” close to Camlough Park as a man got out of a Nissan Qashqai.
He was then said to have “deposited the contents of an orange bag between two trees” before walking further into the park where he met another man.
The officers went to the area where they saw the activity and found a handgun wrapped in brown parcel tape and that when McDonald was arrested and searched police found an orange bag.
While an additional search of the Nissan uncovered £460 and €1,040, but nothing significant was found when his home was raided.
During police interviews McDonald claimed he had gone to the park to “do hill sprints” and that “the bag with him contained a loaf of bread as he intended to feed the ducks”.
He denied knowing anything about the firearm and further claimed he had left the park because of the two men, the plain clothed officers, were “acting suspiciously”. DC Murphy told the court although McDonald has a clear record, given the nature of the seizure police believe it’s linked to organised crime and criminality and fear that he could flee the jurisdiction.
Under cross-examination from defence counsel Paul Burns, the officer confirmed “the police were not there to observe” and also that officers had not searched this area before McDonald was there.
Mr Burns told the court McDonald’s explanation for the cash seized was that he and his fiancée had planned to go on a weekend Christmas shopping trip to Manchester and that according to him, there would be no forensic evidence such as prints or DNA on the tape or the gun.
The lawyer submitted the 29-year-old could be freed with a package of bail conditions, given McDonald’s clear record, his job and family ties.
District Judge Rosie Watters disagreed however and said that while the seriousness of the offence was not a ground to refuse bail, “it certainly cannot be ignored in weighing whether he is likely to become engaged in further offending”.
“In those circumstances I’m concerned about the commission of further offences,” the judge concluded.
McDonald was remanded into custody and the case adjourned to Newry Magistrates Court on a later date.
The PSNI has contacted gardaí in relation to Tuesday’s shooting to seek assistance in tracing the getaway car.