Arsonists target Bloody Sunday museum in Derry
Victim's brother left 'sickened' by potentially devastating attack close to gas mains
A fire started by arsonists at the museum that tells the story of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry was ignited close to a gas mains - and could have had "dire consequences" for people in the area, it has been claimed.
The blaze was described as sickening by one man whose brother was among the 14 people killed by paratroopers in January 1972.
The fire and break-in was discovered when construction workers arrived at the site of the Free Derry museum which is currently undergoing a massive £2.5 million extension and revamp.
Before the work began artefacts - including the handkerchief waved by the late Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly - were transferred to the museum's temporary building in Shipquay Street or placed in storage.
It is understood a fire was started in the room which houses all of the electric and heating controls for the new building but it failed to develop and damage was limited.
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was the youngest man to die on Bloody Sunday, said he was thankful the artefacts had not yet been returned to the new building.
He said: "The Bloody Sunday families are outraged and sickened by this attack on the new museum.
"To think that a few idiots could have caused major damage to a very important project, and possibly set it back by months, is just beyond thinking about.
"We are just a few weeks away from re-opening but that was undoubtedly put in danger if this fire had taken a hold.
"The place where it was lit is close to a gas mains which could have had dire consequences for people living here. This museum will be a monument to those who died on Bloody Sunday, and the other members of our community who died in Free Derry, and it is terrible to think that anyone should attack it. Have they no perspective of the suffering people here endured during those years?
Mr Kelly added: "Thank God the artefacts from the museum are not yet back in the building and are safe. These are precious items, not just to the families but to future generations and their loss would have been devastating.
"I would ask the people behind this attack to leave us alone, let us finish what we set out to do and educate the world and pass on our story to future generations."
Museum manager Adrian Kerr said: "We are very lucky that this fire did not spread and that there wasn't more damage caused. We have been working on the new museum for nearly ten years and to see an attack like this on it now, when we are so close to completing it, is just sickening.
"The new building is also very close to a lot of homes, and these could also have been damaged if the fire had spread. We call on those involved to just stay away and let us finish the job."