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Pensioner tells of her shock after arson attack on community hall

By Claire McNeilly

A pensioner who escaped an arson attack on a community centre in Co Down said last night that she was still coming to terms with what happened.

The blaze at the hall at Skipperstone Street, in Bangor, was maliciously started around 9pm on Thursday night while an elderly group of locals were playing bingo inside.

The fire - which did not take hold - broke out after a number of youths doused the front door with petrol and set it alight, before running off.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Florrie Burns (71), who has lived in the estate for over 30 years, recalled the horror of the attack.

"Someone shouted, 'Look at the flames, the door's on fire'," she said. "And you could smell the petrol. The bingo caller helped the others out and I ran and called 999."

Mrs Burns, a widow of 26 years, said that 12 pensioners aged between 65 and 86 were in the hall when the trouble began.

"I run the bingo," she said. "It's only for pensioners and we're mostly widows.

" We saw a group of youngsters hanging around. They must have been between 12 and 16. They started thumping at the door and windows and opening the back door.

"We had just started the bingo when the thumping started again. One rascal bent down at the window and pulled his trousers down at the pensioners. They were shocked."

Mrs Burns, who had a brain haemorrhage five years ago, said everyone was still shaken by the incident.

"It was terrible, just terrible. It scared the life out of us. It's hard to believe that this has happened. It's just a voluntary wee bingo club. There was awful fear. It didn't hit me until this morning."

"Thank God no one was hurt. Pearl, one of the pensioners, is nearly blind. She's disabled and can't walk. Her wee 18-year-old granddaughter wheeled her out in her wheelchair. She was badly shaken but she's ok now."

Mrs Burns criticised the thugs behind the attack, but said it wouldn't put them off playing bingo again in the hall.

"It's just pure badness, that's what it is," she said.

"The people who did it don't know what to be at. They're nothing but rubbish. That's all they are.

"There are good children in this community, but there's an element who just don't care. But we'll come back to our wee hall."

She added: "Parents should look after their kids to see what they're doing. I have two grown up boys now and that's what I did with them."

Police arrested three teenage males in connection with the incident. They were later released.


From Belfast Telegraph