Hate crime: Catholic mum and children flee home after arson attack in Newtownards
A Catholic mother and her three children have been forced to flee their Co Down home after sectarian arsonists tried to set it on fire — the latest in a series of attacks on the family.
Accelerant was poured through the letter box of the semi-detached house in Lenamore Park, Newtownards, and ignited around 7.20pm on Saturday.
Police said that Janette Nelson (38), who was in the property at the time, was able to put out the fire, and managed to escape.
Just over a week ago Ms Nelson's house was set alight in similar fashion.
Before the arson incidents, sectarian graffiti was scrawled on the walls and windows of the house on successive weekends.
Police are treating the latest incident as a hate crime and have appealed to witnesses to come forward.
JAt around 7pm on Saturday flammable liquid was poured through the letterbox and set alight, causing scorch damage.
Ms Nelson (below) has lived in Lenamore Park for nearly six years with her children — Bryanny (12), Zofi (7) and two-year-old Eli.
She was too upset to speak about the ordeal.
Her sister, Lizzie McInerney, was yesterday packing up the remainder of the family’s belongings as they wait to be allocated another Housing Executive property.
She said that Ms Nelson had been getting ready for a rare night out when the attack happened.
“I came down to get her and she said that the smoke alarm was going off and she realised the door was going up in flames,” said Ms McInerney.
Last week her children had to be rescued from an upstairs window after a fire was started at the front door late at night, with smoke making it impossible to escape downstairs.
On other occasions, paint has been thrown at the house and on Ms Nelson’s car and sectarian graffiti was also daubed on the house.
Her sister said: “Janette had already decided to move out ... She was hoping it would all die down and they would catch whoever was doing it.
“Janette’s in bits and has been since it first happened. The girls have been having night terrors and their teacher said they have gone really quiet in school.”
She said that she believed her sister’s religion was being used as an excuse for the attacks as the area was home to both Catholic and Protestant families.
One neighbour said: “It just seems to be anti-social behaviour and we can’t see any other reason for it. Her kids are great and they are all great neighbours who never bother anybody.”
A 32-year-old woman who was arrested last week — on suspicion of intimidation in connection with an earlier attack — was released pending further enquiries.
Neighbour William Gill helped the girls escape from the house in the previous attack.
“The family has 100% support in the area,” he said. “Janette has never done any harm. I think they have just started on her for nothing.”
Police appealed for anyone with information about the attacks to contact them.
Alliance Party Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy said: “I am disgusted that this family has been targeted for the fourth time. I cannot comprehend why somebody would want to target a family in this way. I am just thankful that this fire was put out quickly, otherwise lives may have been lost.”