Ice-cream man shot as children watch
"I heard Jim shouting for help so I ran out. He was sitting in the driver's seat and with the window rolled down, shouting out for help. At first I thought maybe his van had broken down but he said he had been shot" Alan Ketchen, who heard the shots from his home
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AN ICE-CREAM man was gunned down last night while he sold sweets to a group of children.
Witnesses reported hearing two shots followed by cries for help. A masked man clad entirely in black was spotted fleeing the scene carrying what may have been a sawn-off shotgun.
The victim, who was named locally as Jim Allison, was critically ill in hospital after the shooting in Penicuik, Midlothian.
Residents said Mr Allison, who is thought to be aged in his 50s, had worked from his ice-cream van for many years in the town.
Mr Allison had parked his van, with its music blaring, at about 6:30pm in Strathesk Road.
One friend of the victim was having a meal in his house across from the vehicle when the gunshots rang out.
"I was sitting eating my tea when I heard two bangs. My daughter said to me she thought fireworks night had passed, as it just sounded like a couple of bangers," said Alan Ketchen, 43.
"I heard Jim shouting for help so I ran out. He was sitting in the driver's seat and with the window rolled down, shouting out for help.
"At first I thought maybe his van had broken down but he said he had been shot.
"Then I saw him holding his stomach and there was lots of blood. I ran back inside and told my wife to phone the police and ambulance."
Mr Ketchen, a mechanic who had worked on Mr Allison's van, said other neighbours came to help, including a paramedic who lives a few doors away. "We tried to comfort him. He was looking like he was about to pass out," he said.
"He had his hand over his gut. I couldn't take it in at first. I couldn't believe somebody had shot him."
Mr Ketchen said children near the van saw a man running along the street after the shooting. He was dressed in black and had a bandanna covering his face.
He said that Mr Allison drove his van into Strathesk Road, from nearby Windsor Road, every day, stopping first at one end of the street, near a nursery, before parking outside Mr Ketchen's house at the opposite end.
"He would come round my house in the morning for a cup of tea and a blether. I just can't believe it."
A police source said: "It appears that a man dressed from head-to-toe in black walked up with his face wrapped in a bandanna and fired a weapon.
"We have received conflicting reports as to whether the weapon was a sawn-off shotgun."
He said there were a number of children standing close by when the incident took place.
Last night forensics officers with torchlights scoured the street of semi-detached houses for clues, while children gathered with their bicycles at the end of the cordoned-off road.
A firearms search unit, including sniffer dogs, was sent to the scene to search the area for an abandoned weapon.
The scene of the shooting is only a few hundred yards from the house where a mother was stabbed to death in a vicious attack last year. Scott McMillan, who was 16 at the time of the attack, murdered 30-year-old Nikki McLeod at her home in Strathesk Grove on 20 July.
Last night Mr Allison was said to be undergoing surgery at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman confirmed that armed-response officers and detectives were on the scene.
She added: "We are keen to hear from anyone who was in the vicinity of Strathesk Road, Penicuik, and may have seen or heard anything suspicious."
Anyone with information can call Lothian and Borders Police on 0131-311 3131 or contact Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.