Belfast Telegraph

Police probing a sectarian motive after bandsman's car torched in Cookstown

By Brett Campbell

Two flute band members have been left traumatised following an arson attack that is being treated as a possible hate crime.

A 21-year-old member of the Sons of William Flute Band discovered his burnt out car in the Millburn area of Cookstown in the early hours of yesterday.

An attempt was also made to set fire to a vehicle belonging to a 20-year-old member of the band.

The car's back windscreen was smashed in the failed arson attack.

"We have not yet been in touch with the owners as they are badly shaken and still in shock," a representative of the band told the Belfast Telegraph.

They added that tensions had been running high in the Co Tyrone town.

"We ourselves have been targeted, with our 40th anniversary banner getting ripped down - there has been a big rise in sectarian tensions in Cookstown lately," they claimed.

"There are pensioners who have had flags stolen from their houses and flags have been taken from lampposts, but last night a car belonging to a young member of the band was targeted and burnt to a crisp."

Two expensive full guard band uniforms, made from doe skin, were destroyed in the blaze.

The band members discovered the damage after returning from a competition at Carrickfergus town hall on Saturday night.

"We have many young people in our band and we invest a lot in their musical development and also provide tuition at our own expense," the representative added.

"People in this band have a real purpose and set out to offend no one.

"We cannot understand why anyone would have a vendetta against us and therefore find it sickening that we have been attacked in this way in our own home town.

"It is our opinion that this attack can only be described as a hate crime."

Mid-Ulster SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone condemned the incident and urged anyone with information to contact the PSNI.

"The reckless thugs who set fire to a car and attempted to set fire to a second over the weekend are callous criminals and their actions should be condemned by everyone," he said.

"They've nothing to offer people in Cookstown and I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious to come forward to the police as soon as possible."

Ulster Unionist councillor Trevor Wilson also condemned those who carried out the attack and appealed for witnesses to come forward.

"This is another disgusting attack in the Mid Ulster Council area and should be categorically condemned," he said.

"At a time when we hear a lot of people talking about respect and rights, the people who carried out this attack obviously don't believe in it."

The PSNI confirmed it was investigating the possibility of a sectarian motive for the arson attack.

It appealed for anybody who witnessed anything suspicious to contact police in Magherafelt by calling 101 and quoting reference number 91 15/10/17.

Belfast Telegraph

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