Belfast Telegraph

Arsonists started fire through the roof of family home

By Dave Whelan

AN anti-drugs campaigner has said that she will not be intimidated from her home by "pathetic animals" after her house was set alight in the Shankill Road area.

Mother of four, Tracey Coulter said that she was in no doubt the UDA had been behind the attack on her Shankill Terrace house on Sunday night (December 1).

Residents in the area had to be evacuated as seven fire engines and 33 firefighters fought to contain the blaze, threatening to spread to nearby rooftops.

Ms Coulter and her four children, aged between four and 15, were not in the premises at the time of the attack but some of her children had witnessed the blaze.

It comes just three days after a leading UDA figure William 'Mo' Courtney was convicted for head-butting Ms Coulter at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

On Friday, November 29, Ms Coulter gave evidence of a confrontation between her and the defendant at the government-funded Lower Shankill Community Association.

Ms Coulter said she had travelled to the offices to speak about the suspected drug-related death of a relative just last week.

A row then broke out between Ms Coulter and another man, David Coleman, before Courtney intervened and head-butted her.

Ms Coulter said that her children had been left devastated by the damage done to their home which will likely lead to them not being able to return to the premises before Christmas.

"This is because I gave evidence against Mo Courtney, she said.

"It is the UDA's response to his conviction last week – but I don't for one second regret what I did. I'd do it again tomorrow and I'd urge everyone to stand up to them."

Ms Coulter urged First Minister Peter Robinson to intervene and block funding for community centres that employed members of the paramilitary group.

"The government have to take action. They cannot continue to let law-abiding citizens be tortured by these thugs. The situation on the ground and the level of intimidation of ordinary people like me is getting worse."

Ms Coulter said that she will not be driven out of the area by the latest attack in a long line of intimidation. "I will not be driven from my home by these gangsters. I am staying in the Shankill. There is no way the bully boys are forcing to force me to leave," she added.

Greater Shankill DUP Councillor Brian Kingston said it was "a reckless attack which could have had devastating consequences".

"This is the family home of Tracey and her children. They were out at the time of the blaze but those responsible could not have been certain of that.

"It appears that the attackers made a hole in the roof through which they poured a form of accelerant which was set on fire. Through the swift action of neighbours and the Fire and Rescue Service the extent of damage was limited, but smoke and water damage was caused to Tracey's Housing Executive home and possessions and likewise to at least two adjoining houses."

Mr Kingston said he visited the scene on Sunday evening speaking to Tracey and her mother, to neighbours and to PSNI officers and firefighters. "The conclusion that this fire is considered to be arson confirms what many already suspected in light of a previous paint attack and threats against Tracey."

He appealed for information to be passed to the PSNI on 0845 6008000 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph