Belfast Telegraph

Anne O'Neill's shocked neighbours struggle to come to terms with horror on quiet Belfast street

By Brett Campbell

Residents have told of their profound shock following the brutal murder of Anne O'Neill in their "friendly and quiet" south Belfast community.

Ardmore Avenue, which is lined with semi-detached houses and a handful of bungalows, was sealed off at all three entry points within an hour of Anne's body being discovered at 7am on Saturday.

It remained eerily silent yesterday afternoon as police officers kept guard while forensic examinations continued - leaving many local residents feeling fearful.

"I am due to give birth in five days and my husband was trying to get home and he couldn't," a resident told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He's from Sweden so it was a bit of a nightmare for him.

"He didn't know what was going on and neither did I when he phoned me to say he couldn't get home.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard about what happened.

"I feel so sorry for her parents."

Another man who lives across the road from the dainty bungalow which is now a crime scene recalled waking up during the night and hearing a commotion a few hours before Anne was heard begging for help - but he is unsure if it was connected to the attack.

"I have a young baby so I'm always up in the middle of the night," he said.

"There's a pub nearby so hearing an argument on a Saturday night is not abnormal around here, so I didn't think anything of it."

He said everyone is trying to come to terms with the gruesome incident.

"This is a quiet area, people keep themselves to themselves to themselves, but they also look out for each other," he added.

"I went out on Saturday morning to get milk and when I came back the whole place was sealed off - that's how quickly this happened.

"We cannot believe that this has happened and our hearts go out to the family and her parents."

The street was reopened at around 4pm yesterday as distressed residents struggled to come to terms with the horrific murder.

"This is like something you see on Emmerdale or Columbo, it's not what you expect to see on your front door," another resident said.

"It's all families and elderly people around here.

"This is happened completely out of the blue and has knocked everyone for six.

"There are a lot of elderly people who live around here and they will be feeling very vulnerable after this.

"We would all like to know what happened so that we know not to worry."

Last night police continued to kept watch outside the bungalow, which remained sealed off.

Despite it being a quiet area there have been concerns about rising crime in recent months following a number of car thefts and a series of attempted break-ins.

It has led some residents to install CCTV cameras outside their homes, prompting Detective Chief Inspector Geoffrey Boyce to appeal for residents to hand over footage.

Exactly a mile away in Drenia, where Anne lived for more than 20 years, neighbours also expressed their disbelief that such a dreadful fate befell such a private person.

"It's absolutely awful, I never thought this would happen to her, it's terrifying," one neighbour said.

Last night most windows of the terraced houses in the quiet cul-de-sac were lit up with Halloween pumpkins, but Anne's house stood in darkness.

"She will be missed," the neighbour added.

Belfast Telegraph

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