Belfast Telegraph

Belfast rooftop rampage left families fearing for their lives

By Allan Preston

A 'one man rampage' left young families terrified in a south Belfast street when bricks were thrown for hours from the roofs of over 10 houses.

Ashley Drive, a quiet terraced street just off the Lisburn Road, was a scene of destruction yesterday morning, with a row of 11 chimneys and rooftops damaged, cars smashed below and masonry and slates covering the street.

Residents first noticed a man dressed in a green and white tracksuit on a rooftop at around 9pm, shouting and causing damage.

Police arrived shortly afterwards, along with a PSNI helicopter and a fire engine, but it would be another four hours before the man could be coaxed down.

Moving from house to house, he began to steadily tear and throw chunks from the roof.

Shockingly, some residents said that as officers escorted families out using riot shields as cover, the man continued to throw heavy masonry at them.

A 26-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of a number of charges including criminal damage.

He remains in custody assisting police with their enquiries.

Several homes were evacuated overnight, with some families staying at the nearby Morton Community centre.

One young father was at home with his wife and eight-month-old baby when the disturbance started.

Arriving back to pick up the pieces, he was greeted with two smashed cars and a demolished chimney.

"The guy on the roof started making lots of noise and it escalated quickly, throwing tiles," he said.

"The damage is pretty significant and I think both our cars have been written off. The windscreen, roof and door panels are all ruined.

"I'm not sure why this happened, I was just concerned on getting my family out.

"It was very distressing for them, but you have to get on with these things."

Clean-up crews from the Roads Service and Belfast City Council arrived to clear the debris from the street at around 11am yesterday.

With cars privately owned and most of the properties belonging to landlords, it's still uncertain what the cost of the extensive damage will be.

Keira Scott (21) and Aidan Devlin (24) had been enjoying a quiet night watching television when the carnage started.

"We looked out the window and there was a guy pushing the chimneys down. We were terrified, there were bricks flying everywhere," said Keira.

"The police handled it quite well.

"We saw one woman who had a small infant and a little baby who came running out.

"The police were saying to the man 'families live here'."

Aidan said: "He kept screaming that he wanted a drink and a smoke and said he was going to burn the houses down. He asked the police for a lighter but they said no."

Kana Yu (31) was at home with her six-year-old girl and eight-year-old boy.

"My children were running about scared, tired and crying," she said.

"My friend came to pick my children up about 12.30am. I stayed at a friend's house for a while before going to the community centre.

"This is a quiet street and I don't want my kids to come back and see it like this."

Ian Adams (22) also spent the night in the community centre.

"He was screaming at the police, throwing bricks down," he said.

"At one point we were ushered from our homes past the police line, it was pretty scary.

"Thankfully, our house isn't as badly damaged, but there's a few holes in the back roof just above our bathroom and lots of bricks at our back door. We still need to be pretty careful."

One young woman said she saw the man just as he arrived on Ashley Drive.

"He seemed to be running away from someone, he climbed up and wouldn't come down. It just seemed that the more police that arrived, the more stressed he seemed to get and that's when he started to kick off.

"It really wasn't clear why he was doing this at all, it was just anger more than anything."

Ricardo Ramos (36) has lived on the street for three years and waited till 4am in his car before police could let him back in.

"It was a very harrowing scene," he said.

"By the time I came out families were running on the street and trying to save their lives, because he was throwing things on to the road.

"He threw things at the police as people were leaving the house protected by shields.

"It was a mad, horrendous situation and I've never seen anything like it in my life."

Alan Levy (71) added: "I think he was more distressed than anything. His family and a young girl arrived to talk him down, but he wouldn't listen.

"The police had to move them on. That's when he started throwing the chimney pots here. The police were here quite quickly, they blocked the street off at both ends and a large crowd gathered."

One mother on the Ashley Drive watched the whole incident from her front door.

"It was unbelievable, he had no care for himself or anyone," she said.

"Children were having to run up the street and families with children. He was chucking it down the whole time, the police were trying to draw his attention away. It also looked like he might fall and we didn't want to sit here helpless and watch this happen.

"Even though he's troubled, we didn't want to see someone get hurt. That was such a tricky situation for everyone involved."

Belfast Telegraph

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