The family of a Belfast man fighting for his life after a horrific stabbing has claimed one of the killers of Robert McCartney was involved in the brutal attack.
The sisters of Joe Henry (42) told how their elderly mother watched helplessly in her home as two men armed with knives and a crowbar stood over her son after stabbing him in a frenzied attack.
Roisin Henry from the Markets area in south Belfast said: "My mother says she'll never forget the look in these men's eyes. They are pure evil. One of them killed Robert McCartney and he stabbed many other people before that.
"The other man has knifed people many times too. We can't understand why they are still freely walking the streets. We are speaking out because we don't want any other family to go through what we are suffering. It has to stop. These men must be arrested and charged before they stab again."
Joe Henry has been unconscious since the attack. He is on a life support machine in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital where his condition is critical. "We are keeping a constant vigil at his bedside. All we can do is pray. It's breaking our hearts," Roisin said.
"Joe's injuries were horrific. He suffered multiple stab wounds to the throat, neck and stomach. It's very upsetting even looking at him." Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old father of two, was killed in 2005 outside Magennis's bar 200 yards from where Joe Henry was attacked.
The man who stabbed Robert McCartney was a member of the Provisional IRA at the time of the murder. The Henry family strongly denied rumours that Joe was a dissident republican: "Like Robert McCartney, he is a completely innocent man," Roisin said.
"He is a gentle giant and a real family man. He has never been a member of any group or organisation. We are revulsed at anybody suggesting otherwise. We are also deeply angry that we have seen neither Sinn Féin nor local community leaders publicly condemning our brother's stabbing. They haven't contacted us personally either.
"Their silence is deafening. The only condemnation we have heard so far has come from Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rogers." But the family have strong support from locals in the Markets, receiving dozens of get well cards for Joe.
Dinah Henry, Joe's elderly mother who is recovering from a stroke and has severe arthritis, was too upset to be interviewed.
She just sat in the room clasping her rosary beads as her two daughters recalled the gruesome attack in Eliza Street nine days ago. Patricia Henry said: "A knock came to the door at 9am. The attackers were hiding at either side of the door so Joe couldn't see them.
"When Joe opened the door, one of them jumped out and hit him on the head with a crowbar. He fell into the porch. Both of them then stabbed Joe numerous times as he lay on the ground. They are animals."
Patricia described how she came running downstairs to the stabbing scene: "I was in the bedroom when I heard my mother shouting 'Patricia come quickly, your brother's been stabbed, your brothers been stabbed, get help, he's going to die!'
"Joe was lying there in the porch and the blood was pouring out of him. It was coming out of his mouth and nose like a waterfall. It wasn't a wee dribble of blood, it was huge clots – like big lumps of jelly.
"My mother saw them as they were standing over Joe, having stabbed him. The were covered in Joe's blood and they still had their knives in their hands. My mother will never forget how evil they looked. They are dirty, heartless cowards.
"They don't even have the courage for a fist fight. All they are capable of is stabbing an innocent man who has no chance to defend himself."
A passerby on his way to work saw Joe's mother screaming for help on the street and administered first-aid to him until the ambulance came. "We brought towels down from the bathroom and did the best we could to keep him alive," says Patricia.
Roisin Henry, who lives a few doors down the street from the rest of her family, said: "They weren't out just to hurt Joe, they wanted to murder him. They were aiming for his jugular vein. They stabbed him numerous times in the neck and throat. The slit him from the front of the throat to the back of the neck."
Roisin's 13-year-old son was in the house at the time of the stabbing: "Joe and my son were about to take Joe's wee Jack Russell out a walk. My son came running to get me in hysterics screaming, 'Uncle Joe's been stabbed mummy, he's going to die!'
"My son has been seriously mentally scarred by what he saw. He has hardly spoken a word since." Joe, a single man, lived for his 13 nieces and nephews, Roisin said: "You couldn't meet anybody more kind-hearted. He'd give the kids his last penny.
"He was away at Anfield for a football match in May and he came home with Liverpool scarves and towels for the children. Every Easter, he'd buy them Easter eggs and anytime they were going on a day out, he'd give each of them a fiver."
Roisin said her brother had never hurt anybody in his life: "If it's sunny, he spends the day sitting in the bench in my mother's front garden. You couldn't find anybody more harmless. When I got married two years ago, he gave me away because our father is dead. Now when I look at those wedding pictures of us happy together, it tears me apart."
A 46-year-old man was last night being quizzed by police in connection with the attack.