Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Night of terror on Antrim housing estate

House destroyed by fire in Antrim
House destroyed by fire in Antrim

An Antrim mother has told how she and her two young children were forced to flee their home in terror after a gang carrying machetes and knives broke in.

The woman spoke of her family's ordeal after she had to grab her four-year-old twins from their beds and run to safety after the house was targeted by the gang.

Police are investigating attacks on three properties a short distance apart in a housing estate in Antrim on Monday night. One was burnt out to a shell.

The mother's trauma began when the weapon-wielding gang smashed windows and kicked open the front door of her home in the Firmount Drive area of the Greystone estate.

They ransacked the property, smashing televisions and laptops, before making off with a mobile phone.

The woman said she feared for the lives of her two young children.

"The only thing going through my head was to protect my kids," she said. "I had to lift them out of their beds into the freezing cold to bring them to their grandmother's house to safety."

A 35-year-old man was attacked and injured during the incident. An hour later, a group also tried to break into a nearby flat before a house around the corner was set on fire.

The property was gutted by the blaze during which an elderly man had to help his disabled wife to safety from their adjacent property, which sustained smoke damage. He was too distressed to comment yesterday.

Three fire crews attended and extinguished the fire. Workers from the Housing Executive were at the scene yesterday to make the properties safe.

Police investigating the rampage arrested a 44-year-old man on suspicion of aggravated burglary, resisting arrest, disorderly behaviour and assaulting police.

A 16-year-old girl was also arrested on Ballycraigy Road early yesterday morning, also on suspicion of aggravated burglary in connection with the incident.

The mother, who did not wish to be identified, said local people were tired of anti-social elements causing havoc in the area.

"Everybody was once a community and pulled together, but it divided a wedge between the whole community," she said.

"Last night everybody came and stood together out my back to show them that we are not going to take it anymore.

"We just want to live and bring our kids up."

Antrim Mayor Roy Thompson said it was fortunate no one was killed as a result of the incidents.

"I'm just thankful no one was at home when the house was set on fire," said the DUP man.

Ulster Unionist councillor Adrian Watson added: "People don't want this sort of thing happening in their area. All of us want an end to it."

Police said they were investigating the attacks and appealed for witnesses. Motives have not yet been established.

The incidents followed an arson attack in the nearby Ballycraigy estate in the early hours of Monday when two boats outside a home were destroyed.

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