Pregnant Belfast mum tells how PSNI told her of death threat before leaving - top cop challenges politicians to 'get heads together'
A pregnant mother of one has described how police came to her door in the dead of night and told here there was a threat against her and she should leave her home before leaving themselves.
Police have said they will learn from how they deal with handling threats against people, but said political representatives and community leaders needed to "get their heads" together to help tackle the matter.
Loyalist paramilitaries have been blamed for intimidating residents living in the mixed housing development in Cantrell Close off the Ravenhill Road. Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said the UVF was behind the threats.
However, police have said they will not discuss if the threat was credible or where it came from.
Jodie, who is a mother of a one-year-old and is expecting another child said police showed up at her house close to midnight last Tuesday telling her there was a threat made against her and only because she was a Catholic.
The officers told Jodie they did not know who it had come from but she was convinced it was either the UVF or another paramilitary force.
"I'm still unaware of why I had to leave my home, I am still unaware of why I have to drag about my son looking for a home," she told the BBC Stephen Nolan show.
"We don't deserve this, I fought hard for the house - I just want a home and a safe place for my son. Everything was going well and then a year on we are out on the street."
This development is about the future of Northern Ireland. Police
Asked if police said they would protect her son, she said no, adding: "They just walked away and left me to it and went back to their own lives.
"It's ridiculous - I jut need to get rehomed and get on with my life and try and put this past me.
"The new Northern Ireland is a good idea, but paramilitary groups can't move on. But I am pleased with the help and support everyone has offered."
Chief superintendent Chris Noble refused to discuss the specifics of the police probe, where the the threat had come from and if it was credible.
"My focus is on the investigation and if it is credible and the individual or group it came from will be critical to that," he added.
He said patrolling had increased in the area with a focus on particular addresses and they had worked with the Housing Executive and housing association on the matter.
"The idea of us abandoning Jodie and all other families is not right and if Jodie is not aware of our actions I will apologise to her for that.
"These types of stories happen to police officers on a regular basis and on occasions they have to leave homes, so we do have sympathy and we are learning from this."
The officer said the area was safe for Catholics to live in.
"What I would like to see is local elected representatives and community leaders to provide the opportunity and reassurance to those families if they want to return to their homes.
Everything that involves paramilitaries in Cantrell is under the whip of east Belfast UVF. Mairtin O Muilleoir
"And in parallel to that we need people to bring us information to put those responsible before the courts. That for me is core to this issue.
"We have some very strong and more than capable representatives representing all communities. They need to get their heads together and have conversations that need to be had in my view so we can make progress.
"This development is about the future of Northern Ireland. We all have differences and the way to deal with it is not through passing threats to police but through the democratic process."
However, Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir was scathing of the police response saying the PSNI needed to tackle paramilitarism head on.
He admitted he had no evidence the UVF was behind the latest threats, but "everything that involves paramilitaries in Cantrell is under the whip of east Belfast UVF".
"Police have told me it is paramilitaries and if it is paramilitaries then the only ones responsible in that area for paramilitary activity is the UVF."
The new Northern Ireland is a good idea, but paramilitary groups can't move on. Jodie
The former finance minister said the police had been wrong in their approach to ask for community help in bringing those responsible to book.
"They have called for community representatives to say something - that is not the problem. The issue is that the UVF has been allowed to get away with intimidation that has been going on. Flags were decked around the area before keys were handed out.
"And that is the downfall of the PSNI approach to how they deal with paramilitary activity in the city.
"The UVF are responsible for a reign of terror in that area and the PSNI should stop making excuses, stop saying it's a community problem. The issue of paramilitarism is a police issue - the issues of UVF flags or UDA flags on lampposts is a police issue.
"We can't have a situation were paramilitary organisations exist in 2017 and that goes for republicans. They are a cancer on our society and stop us building a truly shared society."
The loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said there was "absolutely no threat from the UVF and no evidence to back it up" and instead Sinn Fein were using it to their "political benefit".
He said given the police refusal to disclose the origin of the threats it "as not credible".
Spoken to senior UVF East Belfast and I believe they NEVER threatened anyone in Cantrell Close. How and why did it become 'UVF threat'?— Stephen Dempster (@dempster7) September 30, 2017
Belfast Telegraph Digital