Two people have been arrested after a Chinese takeaway owner was brutally murdered in front of his wife after his car was forced off the road.
He had been travelling home to Ballymoney from his Randalstown business – the Double Value takeaway – shortly after midnight on Thursday with his 57-year-old wife when they were attacked and their money stolen.
Both were stabbed after their car was intercepted by two vehicles on the Caddy Road, a remote country area outside the town.
The murder of the well-established trader, whose business is on the town’s main street, and the knife attack on his wife, who suffered injuries to her head and hands, has sent shockwaves through the local community.
Police said the woman underwent surgery and described her condition as not life-threatening.
A spokesman for the Northern Trust said she was in a “stable condition” in Antrim Area Hospital.
A 31-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were arrested in connection with the murder and robbery.
Both were being questioned last night by detectives and there is no suspicion of a hate motivation, the investigating officer said.
Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan said: “I believe that their vehicle was forced off the road by two other vehicles and they were approached by a number of people.
“The couple were attacked and a sum of cash taken from them. The woman managed to leave the vicinity and raised the alarm at a nearby house.
“Tragically, the man died at the scene as a result of stab wounds.”
He was found dead in a ditch by the side of the road with a deep laceration to his throat, sources said.
Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Talbot said: “At this time investigations are at an early stage but I am treating this as murder.”
Businessman Roy Picken, who owns Picken’s bar which sits alongside the Double Value restaurant in the Co Antrim town, said: “I just don’t understand what happened. It doesn’t make sense.
“He was a hard-working wee man who didn’t cause anyone any trouble.
“Everybody liked him. I would say he didn’t have an enemy in the world and that’s why we cannot understand it.
“He kept himself to himself but always smiled and said hello to you, as did his wife who was a lovely lady.
“This is a bad day for Randalstown.”
It is understood the murdered man has relatives who run Chinese takeaways in Ballymena.
Speaking from the scene of the murder, DUP MLA Trevor Clarke said: “People in the area are in deep shock today.
“No one expected this to happen and still so many questions remain.”
DUP MP for South Antrim William McCrea said “those responsible for this savage and brutal murder should be brought before the courts and subjected to the full rigour of the law”.
“Randalstown is a quiet and peaceful town and the community is in deep shock at what has happened,” he added.
UUP MLA Danny Kinahan said he was also “shocked to hear of this murder”.
“It is tragic that someone has lost their life,” he said.
“Randalstown is a quiet, peaceful area and this will come as a shock to the whole community.”
SDLP councillor for Antrim Kieran McMullan said he had seen the victims just 12 hours before the incident in a supermarket, their trolley loaded with vegetables for their business.
“To learn that less than 12 hours later the man has had his throat cut is shocking – it is an atrocity.”
He said he knew the victim as a customer at his restaurant.
“There was never a more pleasant individual, to enter his premises and do business with.”
Alliance councillor in Antrim Neil Kelly also condemned those responsible for the murder.
He said: “This appeared to be a callous attack by those with no regard for the lives of others. I would condemn those responsible and urge them to hand themselves into the police.
“I would like to extend my sympathies to this man’s family and friends.
“I hope that the woman who was also attacked is able to make a full recovery.”
Sinn Fein MLA for South Antrim Mitchel McLaughlin said the community in and around Randalstown was in shock.