Girls locked in room as masked gang brutally attack stepfather in Ards
A community has been left in fear after three teenage girls were locked in a room of their Co Down home by a gang of armed and masked men who brutally beat their stepfather.
The shocking paramilitary-style attack took place at a property in Ravara Close in the Scrabo estate, Newtownards, at around 11.15pm on Sunday.
The male victim suffered a large cut to the top of his head and puncture wounds to his arm after being hit with a hammer and beaten with a pole containing nails.
He was taken to the Ulster Hospital following the attack but it is understood he has since returned to the property in the quiet cul-de-sac where he lives with his partner and stepdaughters.
Two of the three girls are believed to be still at school, the other has only recently left.
Local residents said the family had only recently moved to the area.
"They gave him a bad beating but it must have been awful for those girls - I'm sure they are still in a bad way," one appalled neighbour said.
"The poor wee lassies must have screamed in terror."
Another neighbour who had allowed her four children to stay up late on Sunday night due to the holiday had to reassure the youngsters that it was safe to go to sleep.
They had been startled by the noise of four masked men entering the nearby house.
"We heard what I can only describe as a herd of elephants running up the stairs - my daughters knew straight away that something was wrong, but I dismissed it," she said.
"I just put them to bed and told them everything was OK. The next thing the police and ambulance arrived.
"It was only this morning I found out the extent of what had happened - it's shocking."
Detective Constable Rea said everyone caught up in the "serious assault" had been left badly shaken.
Strangford MP Jim Shannon condemned the "despicable" attack and appealed to local residents to help unmask the culprits.
"It seems that there are people in paramilitaries in this community who think they are the custodians of law and order, but they are not," he said.
"This was a brutal and violent act of intimidation for the victim and a despicable act on these girls who were terrorised.
"Somebody knows something and I would urge them to come forward and share it with the PSNI."
Police have appealed for anyone with information, or who noticed any suspicious activity or vehicles in the area around that time, to contact detectives on 101, quoting reference 1650 of 05/05/19.