Cars torched in attack on cross-community worker in north Belfast
Published 19/08/2014 | 02:30
A mother-of-three has spoken of her terror at being woken at 3am to the sight of her car transformed into a fireball.
Leeanne Marshall (38) had been in bed when the sound of her and her teenage daughter's cars "popping" and "exploding" woke her up.
She was in the house with her three children, a one-year-old baby, eight-year-old and 19-year-old.
Both cars – a black Renault Scenic and a black Peugeot 107 – were completely burnt out.
The north Belfast community worker believes she was targeted by loyalist paramilitaries because of her work regenerating the Tigers Bay area, which includes getting rid of terrorist murals and the delivery of new homes.
Ms Marshall was issued with a death threat several months ago, and at Eastertime acid was poured over her car outside her Limestone Road home, causing damage to the paintwork.
She is terrified that the next incident might include a petrol bomb coming through her window.
"All I could hear was the bangs of it, the cars popping and exploding," she said.
"The two of them were well lit, they were down the lay-by so thankfully they weren't too close to the house, but the two together were like a fireball and we were scared of the petrol tanks going up."
Ms Marshall is the housing support officer for the North Belfast Community Development and Transition Group (NBCD&TG).
"We are doing a lot of cross-community work and these people don't like progress," she said. "I have been involved in the redevelopment of the area, with the new houses on the Limestone Road and Tigers Bay part of the reimaging project.
"A couple of years ago we organised the removal of paramilitary murals in the area.
"They are just wee thugs who want to take the community back."
A NBCD&TG spokesman said Ms Marshall was an asset to the area.
"All acts of intimidation arising from criminality must be condemned and dealt with as a priority by the PSNI and others," a spokesman said.
Local minister Rev Robert Beckett said ex-UDA leader John Bunting and his colleagues were being targeted because they were trying to move the community away from paramilitarism.
The minister told the Belfast Telegraph the atmosphere in Tigers Bay was currently the most tense he had seen it in a decade.
It concerns a number of UDA members who were expelled for criminality around three years ago when the organisation in north Belfast moved towards what Rev Beckett termed "an old boys' organisation called the UDU".
Among those expelled were Andre Shoukri, Jimbo Simpson and Rab Molyneaux (who is currently in prison), all of whom are understood to be jostling to become 'brigadier' to reactivate the UDA in north Belfast. Rev Beckett said: "North Belfast UDA no longer exists like it used to, but there are folks who were expelled and have now joined up together to form their own paramilitary group with the support of west Belfast and south and east Antrim UDA groups."
A PSNI spokesman issued an appeal for information about the attack on Ms Marshall.
A number of community workers associated with ex-UDA leader John Bunting have been attacked.
Last week John Howcroft's car was set alight outside his home.
The week before a pipe-bomb was thrown at Bunting's car, which was parked on Duncairn Gardens.
Now Leeanne Marshall has been targeted. Rev Robert Beckett said Bunting and his colleagues were being targeted because they were trying to move the community away from paramilitarism.