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Man who attacked sleeping granddad linked to attack on bus lane camera car in Belfast

By Ciaran Barnes

A violent criminal who was once jailed for a brutal hammer attack on a sleeping grandfather is being linked to the incident in which a bus lane camera car was wrecked in Belfast.

Local people have identified Gerard Donegan (36), who has spent more than half his adult life in prison, in a video of Tuesday's rampage in west Belfast.

A man was filmed clambering on top of a Department for Infrastructure vehicle, kicking an already broken window and trying to rip off a roof-mounted camera.

The car had been parked in a bus lane on the Falls Road near Dunville Park to catch motorists driving in illegally.

After getting off the marked white Toyota Aygo the man, who appeared agitated, grabbed a woman who had been inside the car by the throat.

A male colleague at the scene intervened and traded blows with the assailant before wrestling him to the floor.

Locals told the Belfast Telegraph that police have since been scouring the area looking for Donegan, and that attempts to locate him at his home in the Divis area have so far been unsuccessful.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed officers were investigating a report of criminal damage and assault following an incident on the Falls Road on Tuesday.

He added: "It was reported that damage was caused to the bonnet, roof and windscreen of a car, and a man and woman assaulted, by an unknown male at around 4pm.

"Efforts are ongoing to identify the male involved."

This is the second attack on a bus lane camera on the Falls Road within a month. On March 20, a man wielding a hammer smashed the windows of another monitoring car.

Condemning the latest incident, Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Fra McCann said: "The fact that it was carried out in broad daylight again highlights the difficulties faced by this community in the battle against criminal behaviour.

"The people who carry out these attacks do not speak for the west Belfast community and they need to stop immediately."

The suspect Gerard Donegan is considered one of Northern Ireland's most dangerous criminals.

He was first brought before the courts as a teen and has been in and out of jail for the past two decades.

In 2003 Donegan, along with his younger brother Kevin Barry Moyna, broke into the Belfast home of Maurice McCracken.

After forcing Mr McCracken's wife to hand over the keys to their jeep, Donegan hit her sleeping husband six times on the back of the head with a hammer causing severe brain damage.

He was convicted of attempted murder, but served just over half of his 15-year sentence and was freed in March 2011.

Five months after being released, Donegan, armed with a knife, tried to hijack a car in the centre of Belfast.

He was jailed again, which brought his criminal record over the 60 convictions mark.

Before getting out of jail in 2014 he was involved in a brutal assault on a fellow inmate that left his victim needing medical attention.

He also tried to escape from prison officers while on a hospital visit in Belfast. He punched one of the wardens before running off towards the Lisburn Road where he was apprehended.

After Donegan was released from jail, he moved back to the Divis area of west Belfast.

A Department for Infrastructure spokesman added: "The department is aware of an incident involving an attack on a bus lane camera vehicle. The incident is being investigated by the PSNI."

The PSNI has appealed for any witnesses to the attack to contact them at Woodbourne on 101, quoting reference number 838 17/04/18, or to call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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