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Belfast terror attack: 'It was terrifying to see it all so close' - families tell of shock

By Claire O'Boyle

Families living in the shadow of Sunday night's shooting spoke yesterday of their shock at hearing gunshots just yards from their homes as they settled their children for bed.

Mum-of-three Ashlea Dunn, whose house backs onto the filling station on Belfast's Crumlin Road, said her kids were distraught when they were woken from their sleep by shots, sirens and shouting.

"My youngest boy is only 11-months and all the racket woke him and my oldest girl, who's six," she said. "They were absolutely terrified because there were flashing lights and so much noise at the back of our house.

"My partner and I leapt up to look out the front window, and saw an Audi reversing back to turn on our street before it sped off down the Crumlin Road.

"Within about a minute police vans were speeding up and the whole place was packed. It happened really quickly and they were shouting at the people round the garage to 'get in, get in'. They must have wanted everyone in the garage in case something else happened. It was terrifying to see all that so close to our house with three kids just away to bed."

Ashlea (28) said her son settled within 30 minutes of the commotion - but her little girl took hours to reassure.

"My daughter was petrified," she said. "A man who teaches her at a sports class works in the garage as well so she was terrified he might have been hurt, too. Luckily he wasn't but you never know what could have happened, especially at that time when there are still lots of people about.

"It's awful to do something like that so public, with innocent people at work - never mind the people just going in to get some milk for the morning. The worst thing is my daughter told me her friend had wanted to be a police officer when they grew up, but they don't want to anymore."

Just a couple of hundred yards from the garage is Edenbrooke Primary School on Tennent Street.

Mum-of-three Deborah Orr (33) was outside the school after the bell rang yesterday.

Her oldest, who is 15, had been at the garage just five minutes before the shooting.

"He was just there to get a bottle of juice," she said.

"It's our local shop so we're in and out of there all the time and it's only round the corner. He was just saying, 'Oh my God, I could have been in there'. It's not just a matter of people being hit, but I wouldn't want my son to see anything like that. It's awful.

"I heard the gunshots myself and knew straight away what it was.

"It was too close to be fireworks or anything else. We don't want to go back to the old days, not knowing if something's going to kick off right around from our homes with our kids potentially ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I remember years ago seeing gunmen shooting at the police round here, right in front of me when I was really small. I don't want my kids seeing anything like that - that stuff should be long behind us."

Grandmother-of-three Jacqueline Erwin (53) works in a local shop.

She said: "I grew up in the middle of the Troubles and we don't want to end up going back to all that," she said. "Do these people not know how terrible it was? I have grandkids and I don't want them having any of those experiences because times have got so much better and we shouldn't go backwards."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: "Shots were fired at a policeman in his early 20s as he left a garage shop. While he was shot in the arm there were other people there who could have been killed or injured. I hope he has a speedy recovery. Those involved in the attack are the same gunmen who have killed and injured a number of people in the local community. "

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar, said: "It is with real shock that we hear of the shooting of a PSNI officer yesterday evening. We wish him a full and speedy recovery."

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