Race attack salon owner Asta: 'Dream wedding in ruins along with my salon'
Arson victim Asta Samaliute and her fiancé Ben Grigisas may have to postpone their wedding plans - because the money they'd been saving for the wedding went up in smoke last night when thugs torched her new Belfast beauty salon.
They had planned a romantic wedding in the Greek islands in the summer - but that may now have to be put on hold, Ms Samaliute said last night.
She was speaking as around 100 people gathered in east Belfast to show their support after her nail salon was destroyed.
Asta and Ben had hoped to make back the money they had spent on fitting out the salon in time for their wedding but they were not insured.
Speaking at the rally outside the ruined shop, the young Lithuanian woman was near to tears.
Her voice shaking with emotion, she said: "I'm so overwhelmed by all the support that I've had tonight - it's really, really amazing.
"It's comforting to know that there are so many good people around us here in east Belfast .
"I've had a lot of phone calls from people all over Northern Ireland supporting me. I'm so glad to have everyone's support - it really means a lot to me.
"What happened last night was just unbelievable, but it will make me stronger.
Leaning on fiance Ben, who had put his arm around her for comfort and strength, she continued: "I can't get upset - I need to stay strong and get the business up and going again, for my staff and myself.
"We all need to make a living. I am determined to stay in east Belfast. I am not going anywhere."
Then Asta revealed that plans for her and Ben to have a dream wedding later this summer were now in doubt.
"We will have to sit down and rethink. We're trying to stay positive. We have to think about the business, and then we will think about the wedding. It was our dream to get married in the Greek islands. I just hope our dreams will come true.
"We invested everything into this business. We thought that in four months we'd be able to make our dream come true, but I'm not sure at this point what is going to happen."
Christine Hutton, who lives close to Asta's salon, said: "Burning Asta's shop out was terrible. She's a lovely girl, she doesn't deserve that. She's done well for herself.
"She's exactly the kind of person this country needs."
Local PUP councillor Dr John Kyle told the Belfast Telegraph: "Local people are absolutely disgusted at what has happened to Asta.
"I was here this morning and there was a steady stream of local people - both residents and business people - coming to express their support and encourage her, and to ask her not to give in to the thugs and to let her know how much they appreciate having her here.
"There really has been a very positive and encouraging groundswell of support for her. My message to Asta and her fiance is, 'We're with you. We're behind you and we support what you are doing'."
A fund set up for the businesswoman had already raised more than £4,000 last night.