Murdered Belfast community worker Ian Ogle died with “unparalleled bravery” while protecting those he thought were in danger, his funeral has heard.
The 45-year-old died after he was attacked and stabbed 11 times as he prayed with a pastor on a street in the east of the city last Sunday.
More than 1,000 mourners, including members of East Belfast Protestant Boys Flute Band, of which Mr Ogle was a member, lined the streets outside his home on Cluan Place, just yards from where he was attacked and left to die.
There has been speculation that people associated with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) were responsible for the killing.
His funeral at Covenant Love Church on the Albertbridge Road heard how the father-of-two died with his son, Ryan, next to him.
Pastor Kevin Sambrook, who prayed with Ian moments before his death, described the tragic scene.
“Savage, brutal, barbaric were words used to described Ian’s violent murder but I want to introduce words that described Ian that night – courageous, fearless and utterly selfless,” he said.
“He valued the lives of those he felt he needed to protect more than his own.
“I have known Ian for many years, he was a good friend to the church and to me and I often stopped to chat with him.
“On the night he was murdered, I had been walking round from the church when I met Ian at the top of Cluan Place. I stopped, shook his hand and we began to talk.
“We stood and prayed together for a while before he thanked me and told me he prayed the Lord’s Prayer every day and I knew that.
“Moments before the attack he reminisced about his Granny who was a strong Christian woman and he said how she would say ‘you have got to turn the other cheek’.
“Moments later Ian was attacked and brutally murdered and I found myself kneeling beside him as he lay dying, praying that Lord would be with him.
“Ian sadly passed away while his son Ryan was with him and others from Cluan Place arrived to give help as well as (daughter) Toni and (wife) Vera. How shocking and traumatic it was for them.
“Ian met his end with unparalleled bravery and died protecting those he believed to be danger without a second thought for his own safety.
“Ian willingly gave his life for others while others willingly took it from him.
“What I witnessed that night will stay with me for the rest of my life but my strongest and most abiding memory will be not of Ian’s murderers, but rather this brave and selfless man displaying supreme courage with a heart of a lion meeting lethal danger head on knowing he never stood a chance, but content to fulfil an obligation to protect others.
“I saw a man that night with dignity.”
He also described how Ian had moved away from his past and had turned to God towards the end of his life.
He added: “We may be tempted to ask, what good can come out of this senseless act of barbarity, yet we must believe Ian did not die in vain.
“A community united in grief, desperate for justice, and brave enough to demand nothing less than change where fear and intimidation no longer remains. The biggest tribute we can pay to Ian is for his death to become that catalyst for that change beginning now.
“Let me be clear, forgiveness is not forgetting about justice – which must be relentlessly pursued and the full weight of the law brought to bear upon the guilty.”
Two men aged 40 and 37 were arrested on Monday by detectives investigating the murder, bringing the total number of people arrested to 11. Mr Ogle’s daughter, Toni Johnston Ogle, joked how she had not prepared a written tribute because one of the qualities her father gave to her was “I could talk the leg off a stool”.
“I’m not going to say too much but what did Hitler say to his men to get them into their tanks? ‘Men, get into your tanks’,” she said.
“Me and Ryan are going to be lost without him, but we have to be there for my mummy. He was her first love and last.”
Davy Ralston, a community pastor and close family friend, said: “He was a friend to all with a heart of pure gold.
“We will all miss him dearly but we now know he’s safe.”
He added: “To big O’s attackers, depart from evil and do good.”
DUP MP Gavin Robinson was among those attending the funeral.
Meanwhile, two men aged 37 and 40 arrested over the murder have been released on police bail pending further enquiries, a Police Service of Northern Ireland statement said.