Arson-hit salon owners praise people of Larne as they vow to get back to business
Two Larne hairdressers whose salon was gutted in an arson attack after a car was ploughed through the shutters and set alight are back at work today thanks to the support of the local community.
Sisters Kerri and Julie Withers, who ran the Hair by Jakk salon on Main Street with business partners Alanagh and Karen McRandle, will rent chairs in a neighbouring salon as a temporary measure to get their business back on its feet after Monday night's attack.
The Withers hope that in time all four will be able to reunite under one roof in a reborn Hair by Jakk salon.
An online funding campaign launched in the wake of the arson had gathered £2,445 in just three days at the time of going to Press.
Kerri said the support of the local community had helped the devastated hairdressers stay positive as the shock of what happened sank in.
"We are absolutely gutted as we had invested a lot of time and money into the business," she said.
"Larne is not a big town and people were very angry at an attack on a local business. We have had so many messages which have been really positive, and we have been offered a temporary space by Catrina at Perfections Beauty Clinic.
"The messages of support are amazing; to see people are thinking of you and genuinely do care is great."
Kerri learnt of the damage to the salon after a video of the blaze was posted on Facebook on Monday night.
"It was devastating to see the place you put so much work into on fire," she said.
"I was totally in shock, it was hard to take in. When we got into the salon the next day there was a lot of smoke damage. The four of us are still in shock. A lot of things will have to be dumped, but amazingly we got our appointment books back - they were wet but not burnt. We can't wait to get back into business."
Kerri said the fundraising efforts of the community will be key in re-establishing the salon operation.
"People have been so kind, we never expected to get anything, and the money raised will help us to get kitted out with new equipment and get back to work quicker," she said. "I would like to thank all our clients, business people and everyone who donated and left messages of support."
Monday night's attack followed multiple car burnings in Larne over the Easter weekend. It is understood that paramilitaries were not involved.
Police believe one man drove to the salon in the grey Nissan Primera involved in the blaze before fleeing on a blue and white motorcycle driven by a second individual.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Dunny McCubbin said police were investigating whether the attacks were due to "a falling out between two individuals".
He described the arson on the salon as "mindless and reckless", slamming those responsible as "individuals who have shown no concern for the people of Larne and no respect for the business people trying to make a living".
"This business has been devastated by this attack and there can be no excuse or justification for what happened here" he said.
"We are currently investigating a possible link between this incident and other attacks on vehicles in the town over the course of the weekend.
"At this time it's thought a falling out between two individuals may be the catalyst for these incidents, however, as the investigation is at a very early stage it wouldn't be appropriate to comment further on that particular line of enquiry."
A 30-year-old man arrested on Saturday was charged with GBH and possession of an offensive weapon. He is expected to appear in court in Ballymena on May 11.
A 32-year-old man detained on Monday has been charged with common assault and making threats to damage property. He is due to appear at Ballymena Magistrates Court on May 4.
Two men, aged 28 and 31, who were arrested on Tuesday night on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life were interviewed and subsequently released on police bail pending further enquiries.