Police have launched an investigation after a number of holes were drilled in a boat owned by a former senior PSNI officer.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that the ex-officer, who held a senior position within the force before he retired, was preparing to go for a sail in his boat last week when the damage was discovered by a security guard.
Friends of the former officer said that had the damage not been detected, those onboard the vessel could very likely have been drowned.
One line of inquiry is that the ex-PSNI superintendent – who is understood to have survived an IRA bomb attack several years ago – was targeted by loyalists because of his religion.
His vessel, a motor cruiser, was moored at a boat club outside Larne when a security guard noticed suspicious activity on Thursday evening. On inspection it is understood that holes had been drilled into the cruiser.
"Around 40 holes were drilled below the water line. Whoever did this wanted that boat to sink. The boat was due to launch the following day as far as I know. You wouldn't have seen the holes unless you were really looking for them. That boat was definitely meant to sink," a friend of the former officer said.
"He fishes away off shore. He has been to France and the Isle of Man, so to me he has a very lucky escape. He could have drowned, along with anyone else on that boat," he added.
The PSNI is treating the attack as criminal damage.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Police in Larne are appealing for information following a report of criminal damage being caused to a boat which was moored at a boat club on the Shore Road, Magheramorne, on the evening of Thursday, May 29.
"Police would ask anyone who may have any information about this incident to contact them on the non-emergency number 101."
It is believed that it could cost tens of thousands of pounds to repair the craft.
The ex-officer's friend said: "He is one of the most popular, well-liked guys in the club. We are all very upset about this for him. We all believe he was targeted because of his religion. He did a lot for this country throughout his career and this is how he is repaid. It is very fortunate that the holes were discovered."