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Village pensioner ready to up sticks after thugs behind car vandalism spate turn to arson

By Rachel Martin

Published 07/12/2015

Harold Hetherington beside his burnt car outside Newtownards
Harold Hetherington beside his burnt car outside Newtownards
Harold Hetherington beside his burnt car outside Newtownards

A pensioner is considering leaving Northern Ireland because of a spate of mystery attacks on his property.

Harold Hetherington said the callous attacks have left him too scared to stay in his home.

The retired digger firm boss, who is in his 70s, moved to Loughries, a village three miles from Newtownards, less than a year ago.

Since then he has endured a series of worsening attacks.

In the latest incident vandals set fire to his car, leaving it burnt-out.

"I'm over 70 and I've never had anything like this in my life," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

He had told his granddaughter the day before the latest attack that he was planning to move because of the vandalism.

He added: "I'm starting to pack some clothes and get ready, because as soon as I get a few days to sort this out I'm going to look for a place somewhere else or I'm going to go back to England where I lived for a long time.

"I've a bad feeling about here - whatever is going on isn't over yet."

The car enthusiast was woken at around 2am yesterday by a prolonged car horn sounding.

He described seeing the flicker of flames in the car and tried to put them out with a hose from his garden before the flames engulfed the Honda Jazz.

Fire crews took over 30 minutes to get the blaze under control and left the scene at 3am.

A spokesperson for the Fire Service confirmed the incident was being treated as "deliberate ignition".

Mr Hetherington said a previous incident, in which cuts and scratches were made to his Range Rover, left it so badly damaged insurers wrote it off.

Mr Hetherington bought the Honda Jazz to replace the Range Rover, but it was targeted several times before the arson attack.

He added: "My biggest worry is that they could do something to the house.

"Our luck has been awful bad this last while. I can't sleep and I've been getting headaches because of it."

In one bizarre incident, vandals pulled a windscreen from one car and rotated it, leaving it hanging out of the car.

In another incident it appeared that a screwdriver or crowbar had been wedged into the locks.

Last month Mr Hetherington's Toyota Yaris was damaged, with scrapes left across the passenger-side door.

He said he was not sure why he had been targeted. No other cars in the normally quiet area had been affected.

He said he was frightened that the situation would escalate and added that he has "had enough" of what was going on.

Mr Hetherington said police asked if he had any paramilitary connections, something which he denied, and said he had later been told the incident could be a case of mistaken identity.

He added: "It started somewhere towards the end of January or early February, when they let the tyres down on the Yaris.

"At first I didn't worry too much about it because I thought it was kids or something, but then it happened again."

Mr Hetherington's granddaughter noticed more damage to his Range Rover when he was taking her to work.

He added: "She came in really, really upset. It was ripped from front to back all round and scratched right round from front to back.

"Parts of it were cut right through the metal."

"I got out and looked at it myself and it was cut through the mudguard, through the door, through the quarter panel right to the tail light and the passenger side was identical. "The two tail lights had 'XXX' scored through them. It wasn't all cut through, but in parts maybe an inch here and half-an-inch there, right through the metal.

"The bumper was cut from side to side right through to the metal plate below it."

Belfast Telegraph

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