The wife of a murdered loyalist paramilitary suffered a fractured skull as she fought off a four-man gang in an attempt to save her husband from being shot, an inquest has heard.
Tommy English was one of seven people to die in loyalist feud
Ulster Defence Association member Tommy English, 40, was shot dead in front of his wife at their home in Newtownabbey, County Antrim on 31 October 2000.
His three children, twin boys aged nine and a seven-year-old girl were in the house at the time.
His death came during a feud with the rival Ulster Volunteer Force, in which seven people died.
He was murdered seven hours after another man, Bertie Rice, 63, who worked for the Progressive Unionist Party, was killed in neighbouring north Belfast.
Doreen English told the inquest in Belfast on Wednesday that she was struck about the head as she wrestled with the gang.
She described how one of the men shot her husband for the last time as he lay face down in the hallway.
She said she grabbed hold of the barrel of a rifle aimed at her husband, but another man fired a final shot.
"I think there was a shot fired by the smaller gunman," she said.
"The larger gunman hit me with his fist.
"I think the shot hit Tommy in the lower back, they then ran out the back door."
Mr English was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he died soon afterwards.
Mrs English had been preparing food for a Hallowe'en Party at about 1830 GMT when a man pushed open the back door.
"I squealed Tommy's name a couple of times and tried to hold the door closed.
The man shouted `get out of the... way Doreen' ".
She was hit as she tried to force the door shut.
"I was struck a couple of times in the upper body and nose and fell against
"I was also struck on the top of the head and felt blood running down
my eyes," she said.
Detective Inspector Jim Templeton, who headed the police investigation, said no one had been charged with the murder although a number of people were questioned.
He said the investigation was still "very much" open.
Police believe the gang used a hijacked taxi which was later found abandoned in the car park of a nearby residential home.
Mr English was a former member of an Ulster Democratic Party talks delegation in the early stages of the Northern Ireland peace talks.
The UDP was linked to the loyalist paramilitary groups UDA/UFF.