Belfast Telegraph

Attacks and intimidation force Belfast Ballysillan residents to flee homes

By Lauren Harte

Several residents in a north Belfast housing estate moved out of their homes yesterday - just over a week after their properties were attacked.

On Tuesday night, two more houses in Ballysillan Avenue were targeted in suspected intimidation incidents. The residents of these homes are also planning to leave the area in the coming days.

A commercial van was set alight and properties damaged just after 11pm on Tuesday.

The van was parked outside a house which had its front windows smashed, as did the property directly across the street.

This was the fifth attack to occur in the area in the past fortnight.

Previously a car was set on fire and the windows of two properties broken, including the home of a seven-month-old child. Days later, a third home was targeted in similar circumstances.

Since then, police have been increasing patrols in the area.

A senior officer said they will be liaising with the community, partner agencies and local representatives.

Police attended the scene on Tuesday along with members of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service.

It is believed the van fire was started deliberately.

PUP councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston said the people of north Belfast rejected this behaviour and "stand with the victims of cruel and callous intimidation".

She added: "The perpetrators, seemingly on a spree, are redundant of a moral compass.

"To them I say; you are not above the law and eventually, hopefully in the not to distant future, it will catch up with you.

"I believe there are people sitting on information, possibly through fear, that could assist the PSNI with their enquiries and rightfully bring these people to justice. And so I make this appeal; please lift the phone. They don't want your identity, only your information on crime."

DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst said the attacks were "utterly pathetic".

He added: "Regardless if they are connected, whoever is behind them needs to wise up and clear off. It has taken years to get the street back on its feet after all the residents have been through and now this."

Fiona Ferguson from People Before Profit said she was disgusted to hear of another attack on houses in Ballysillan Avenue.

"It's clear that these attacks are connected and carried out with the aim of putting people out of their homes. They should be roundly condemned and immediately halted," she said.

Police have condemned the latest incidents and appealed for witnesses.

The motive behind the attacks is still not yet known, however, the PSNI said its enquiries are ongoing.

Inspector Laura Kelly said yesterday: "While thankfully we have not received reports of any injuries in relation to these incidents, damaging properties and setting fire to vehicles is not only incredibly dangerous but is also creating fear in the local community. This is unacceptable.

"We have increased patrolling in the area and are liaising with the local community, partner agencies and local representatives.

"We are currently investigating each of these incidents to determine if they are linked and are following a number of lines of enquiry," she added.

Anyone with information about any of these incidents can contact police on 101 or alternatively, ring the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Belfast Telegraph

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