Belfast Telegraph

Lone crank may be behind spate of hoax bomb alerts

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A spate of security alerts in an affluent cul-de-sac may be the work of a lone crank who revels in the disruption being caused.

Army bomb officers were called to an estate in Carrickfergus in the early hours of yesterday – the fourth alert there in less than a month.

Shortly before 1.44am, a suspect object was found at the rear of a house in Broadlands Gardens.

Two homes were evacuated while the Army examined the object.

It was later declared an elaborate hoax.

Those evacuated from their homes in the estate were unable to return until 7am.

Police patrols have been increased in the area following three such hoax alerts last month.

Last night, a source close to the investigation into the spate of incidents said police believe an individual "with an unhealthy obsession with blue flashing lights" may be to blame.

"It appears to be somebody who enjoys the drama and is getting a kick out of this," they added.

It is understood police do not suspect paramilitary involvement, or that a member of the security forces is the intended target.

The source said the objects had been left close to various properties.

Local political representatives said they were unaware of a motive for the series of incidents in the estate, which consists mostly of young families and elderly residents.

The DUP mayor of Carrickfergus, Billy Ashe, said it was imperative whoever is behind the alerts is caught.

"This is an area which has never come to attention for this sort of thing before," he said. "It has to stop. It is causing huge inconvenience to residents and they are fearful.

"There is that dread that while they have been hoax alerts so far, the real thing could materialise at some stage."

On January 27, a number of residents were evacuated from their homes in the estate when two objects were found.

On January 19, around 30 residents had to be evacuated from their homes.

Another alert the following day was also declared a hoax.

DUP councillor Jim McClurg hit out at those behind the spate of alerts.

"I like many just wish this would end.

"They are doing nothing but disrupting the residents living there."

Alliance councillor Gavin Norris said residents "just want to get on with their lives in peace".

"It is completely unacceptable that two families were forced from their homes in the middle of the night due to the disgraceful and menacing behaviour of those behind this hoax device," he added.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Inquiries are continuing and police would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the Broadlands Gardens area at the time of the incident to contact police on 0845 600 8000."

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