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Fears for future after arsonists attack stores

By Emily Moulton

Retailers at the Grove Shopping Centre in Downpatrick face an uncertain future after an arson attack damaged several stores overnight.

Many retailers were woken during the early hours by police telling them a blaze had broke out in the complex around 4am.

It is believed the fire started in the roof void.

The Dr China Herbs and Acupuncture store was completely gutted.

Employees of the Chinese medical shop, which sits on the Market Street side of the centre, were too upset to speak this morning.

SDLP councillor John Doris condemned the fire saying those responsible were " working against the development of Downpatrick".

It is believed the centre was broken into by vandals who may also have caused the fire.

A police spokeswoman said: "Police would like to hear from anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area, particularly in the car park behind the shopping centre, to contact them."

Separately, a man was arrested after a suspicious fire in flats at Seymour Hill House in Yewtree Walk, Dunmurry, this morning.

Fire and Rescue Service said the alarm was raised around 12.30am, after reports that people were trapped inside.

Police rescued one man in his mid-30s from an upstairs flat.

Firefighters then fought their way through thick, toxic smoke and found a second man in his mid-40s who was unconscious in a bedroom in the next door flat.

Kevin O'Neill, assistant group commander with the service, praised police and firefighters for their cooperation.

The two men who were rescued, and six police officers, were brought to hospital to be treated for inhaling smoke. All the police officers have been discharged.

Police area commander Paula Hillman said she was "immensely proud of the officers for their courage in a dangerous situation".

Mr O'Neill said there was a "definite line of inquiry" with regard to the cause of the blaze.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph