Belfast Telegraph

Jamie beaten and shot with pellet gun because he came from 'other' side of city

By Amanda Ferguson

A schoolboy targeted in a sectarian hate crime in west Belfast says he feared he was going to die during the gang attack that left him cut and bruised.

Jamie Bickerstaff (16), from the Woodvale area of the city, was beaten and shot six times in the upper body with a pellet gun after spending the evening with friends in the nationalist Lagmore estate area.

A PSNI spokesman said officers are treating Wednesday night's attack at the site of the former Mackies factory as a sectarian hate crime.

Last night the traumatised teenager told the Belfast Telegraph he thought the pellet gun one of the youths pulled on him was a real gun and that he feared he might be shot dead.

"I was up in Lagmore with my mates then I got the bus down home," Jamie said.

"I got off at the Royal (hospital) and walked up to Lanark Way gates but they were locked, so I walked up to Mackies and jumped over.

"Then about five wee lads approached me and asked me where I was from.

"I said Woodvale and one of them said 'say it again', and I said Woodvale.

"One of them swung for me and kicked me to the ground. I have a bad bruise on my head.

"I now know that it was a pellet gun that was pulled out but at the time I thought it was a real gun. He had pulled a mask over his face. They said to tell anyone else if they come down there this is going to happen."

Jamie has taken part in a number of cross-community programmes including a trip to New Orleans in the US through Corpus Christi and the Phoenix Centre.

He currently feels too frightened to return to visit his Catholic friends in Lagmore but says he will not allow the youths who attacked him to stop him from being friends with them.

Jamie also had this message for his attackers.

"It is not like it used to be so why make enemies," he said. "We are not living in the past. We have moved on.

"I would like to ask them why did they did it. I was only walking."

Jamie's mother Sylvia said she does not want any other parent to go through what her family has been through over the last day and called for no retaliation.

"I am drained," she said.

"We have been overwhelmed, I am sickened.

"That is where Jamie usually hangs about. He has more Catholic friends than Protestant.

"I am so shocked, I think it is a disgrace this has happened in society.

"We don't do religion, we are not bitter people, we have respect for everyone.

"People were saying it makes them ashamed to be Catholics, but this was not done in the name of Catholics."

Sylvia would hate to think of another teenager going through the ordeal her son experienced and says she believes the psychological wounds will be tougher to heal than the physical bruises and cuts.

"We are traumatised and I would never want another mother to go through this," she added.

"The mental impact on Jamie is the worst thing."

Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101.

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