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Newcastle boat vandals putting lives at risk: coastguard chief

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Video footage of a boat cut adrift by vandals as attempts are made to secure the vessel

Video footage of a boat cut adrift by vandals as attempts are made to secure the vessel

Video footage of a boat cut adrift by vandals as attempts are made to secure the vessel

Video footage of a boat cut adrift by vandals as attempts are made to secure the vessel

Video footage of a boat cut adrift by vandals as attempts are made to secure the vessel

Vandals damaging and letting boats loose in Newcastle's harbour are putting their lives and those of others at risk, a former coastguard chief has warned.

John Lowry, who lives in the Co Down town and whose own rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was one of those targeted, says the attacks have been going on for weeks.

And yesterday morning sailors had to battle rough seas and harsh weather conditions to recover a boat at Murlough Beach that had floated out to sea after being released by troublemakers.

John said: "For the past few weeks there's been damage carried out on different boats in the harbour. The police actually caught the people who carried out the damage.

"But on this occasion they let boats go and it was quite a blowy night, there was a strong onshore swell running and there was a strong breeze.

"One boat - both ropes off it - actually floated out to sea and ended up washed up at Murlough, and you can see in the video that they were lucky to get it off this morning (Wednesday). It was dangerous work in that surf, you can see there was quite a surf running there.

"And they let my own boat, they let the stern rope go on it, but because the head rope was actually black and there was no lights at that part of the harbour, I think they've missed it luckily, otherwise my boat would have been following suit."

Over the past number of weeks boat owners have seen equipment broken or damaged, including one vessel which had its ropes messed up leaving it hanging mid-air.

He said: "Some of the boats can be expensive, but it's more just the fact that in this day and age you can't keep a boat in the harbour without fear of it being damaged.

"And that's what the case has been this last number of weeks, everybody is really edgy because they're afraid of their boats being damaged and there's people starting to get up very early in the morning to check.

"This is a problem that the council know and boat owners have for some time been saying that there needs to be better lighting and cameras fitted.

"We're calling for the council to put more procedures in place, part of the harbour isn't lit up at night at all and the boat owners are calling for help."

And John stressed that the people behind these mindless attacks are placing themselves at great risk as well as others.

He added:"They go down there, they let a rope off, the surface is slippy itself - they could fall in.

"The let ropes off and then the boat goes out to sea and another could drive into it and then the consequences are another boat has been damaged.

"And the final scenario is that the owners have to go and locate the boat and retrieve the boat which is also dangerous."

The PSNI were contacted for comment.

Belfast Telegraph