Belfast Telegraph

Elderly residents terrified after thugs attack Ballyclare nursing home Christmas tree in rampage

By Victoria Leonard

Heartless thugs vandalised a nursing home Christmas tree before terrifying elderly residents as they ran amok in the facility's grounds.

The incident happened in Ballyclare in the early hours of Sunday.

The fir tree growing in the grounds of Clareview nursing home was set upon by a crowd of youngsters who then terrorised residents by setting off bangers.

The centre cares for elderly people aged between 75 and 97.

Sharon Bell, the manager of the home, said: "It was terrible.

"They arrived late at night and they pulled the three sets of lights off the tree, took them apart and pulled out the wires, leaving them broken and lying across the ground.

"We had only put the lights up four or five days ago, and they have been completely destroyed - it's pure vandalism.

"Then they went into the car park and started setting off bangers, which was a very frightening experience for our residents and staff.

"They could hear the noises outside and were worrying what was going on.

"Our oldest resident is 97 and it is dangerous for people with health conditions - someone could have had a heart attack. They are little thugs.

"The residents always look forward to getting the tree decorated every year. They enjoyed looking out at the lights, but now they are angry and annoyed.

"Thankfully the tree itself doesn't appear to have been damaged."

Sharon said she "can't understand" why the home was targeted, particularly considering the vulnerable nature of the residents.

She said that staff have been "keeping an eye" on residents to comfort them after the incident. "I think it was a crowd of young thugs. I can't get my head around it," she said.

"It is well known that this is a nursing home, and that tree gave residents a little bit of enjoyment, which has now been taken away." Ballyclare DUP councillor Tim Girvan slammed the attack on the nursing home Christmas tree as "particularly cowardly".

"At this time of year we should be making a special effort to think of those who are vulnerable. They are taking away the elderly residents' enjoyment of the season," he said.

"This sort of activity seems particularly cowardly and I would condemn it.

"It must have been a terrifying experience for the residents, and very frustrating for their families."

A PSNI spokesperson said they were investigating anti-social behaviour and criminal damage at a property in Ballyclare's Doagh Road area.

Inspector Jim Gourley stated: "We believe that Christmas tree lights were damaged and bangers set off in the grounds of a nursing home by a group of four young people at around 1am on Sunday, December 3."

Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting reference number 294 of 4/12/2017, or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

It is the second time a Christmas tree has been targeted by thugs in Northern Ireland in recent days.

Last week Bessbrook in Co Armagh was left without its main Christmas tree after vandals destroyed the lights and sawed three-quarters of the way through the trunk.

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