'I'm just an easy target,' says owner of Crumlin salon shot up by criminals
A BEAUTICIAN whose salon was shot up by a gunman demanding extortion cash has vowed not to be forced out by "cowards".
Innocent Emma Cassidy believes she is being targeted because her husband Sean 'Cash' Cassidy once served a nine-month prison sentence for drugs offences.
However, she insists he has nothing do with her Style & Smile hair and beauty business in the village of Crumlin, Co Antrim, and a criminal gang is singling her out because she's an easy target - but she will not be intimidated.
"The people who shot up my business are nothing but cowards, they won't force me out," Emma courageously told Sunday Life.
Video footage of the gunman firing a dozen bullets at the shop front went viral after being put online.
This newspaper knows his identity, and can reveal he fled west Belfast in 2018 after shooting up a Sinn Fein centre in Turf Lodge and being linked to a firework attack on the home of Gerry Adams.
He has since relocated to a village in south Antrim where he has formed an extortion gang with other criminals. These include a heroin dealer and an ex-senior ONH member from Lagmore.
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The same gang was also responsible for a petrol bomb attack last Sunday night on a house on the Dundrod Road belonging to convicted UDA double killer Robert 'Brooksy' Clarke.
Like Emma Cassidy the 67-year-old, who runs a fuel business, is another being targeted for extortion.
The gang knows that Clarke, who styles himself 'The Prod from Dundrod', is vulnerable and no longer has the backing of loyalist paramilitaries, having been convicted of selling IRA diesel from his yards and laundering almost £4m.
Despite being under threat from violent and unpredictable criminals, Emma has vowed to keep open her Style and Smile salon which celebrates its eighth birthday this week.
She said: "If the cowards who attacked my salon have a problem with my husband, they should have the balls to go and see him face-to-face. Instead they crept up here in the middle of the night and fired shots at an empty salon."
Emma, who has no criminal convictions and who is known as a hard-working businesswoman, admits her husband 'Cash' Cassidy has a criminal past, but insists he has turned his life around.
She added: "Sean has nothing to do with my business which I have built up over years from nothing and use to employ local people.
"It's disgraceful I am being targeted like this when I've never caused anyone trouble."
'Cash' Cassidy was jailed for nine months in 2016 for being knowingly concerned in the supply of cannabis.
The 43-year-old has been open about his drug problems in the past, admitting that he was once addicted to cocaine.
In a 2009 letter to a newspaper, he said: "No one more than myself knows the dangers, pain and loss that comes with hard drugs as I was addicted to cocaine myself for several years."
It was after this that threats from dissident republicans forced him to quit his native north Belfast and move to the Co Antrim countryside. Cassidy says he has turned his life around, but that has not stopped greedy extortionists targeting him and his family.
The masked career criminal who was filmed shooting up his wife Emma's beauty salon had to flee west Belfast in 2018 after carrying out a carbon-copy attack on the Turf Lodge Sinn Fein centre. Republicans say he was also involved in throwing fireworks at the homes of Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and former IRA leader Bobby Storey.
This individual, who has a reputation for being erratic and unhinged, is now based in a small village in south Antrim.
Since moving there he has been intimidating locals by walking around late at night in full combat gear.
Another "undesireable" involved in his gang is an ex-ONH member from the Lagmore area of west Belfast who was kicked out of the dissident group for demanding protection cash from drug dealers.
Other members include a heroin-selling burglar from Turf Lodge, and a criminal from the Poleglass estate who petrol bombed the house belonging to ex-UDA lifer 'Brooksy' Clarke last weekend.
They have started targeting businesses in south Antrim because there is no established paramilitary presence in the area.
The gang believe this means they will not be interfering in rackets run by armed republicans and loyalists.
However, the plan looks to have backfired with some republican groups, like the INLA which has a presence in Crumlin, having the extortion gang in its sights.
Its members are also known to have challenged New IRA and Official IRA figures in west Belfast - an act of bravado that could have fatal consequences.
A criminal source said: "This gang of hoods has drawn up a list of businesses in the Crumlin area it is trying to extort.
"Emma Cassidy and Brooksy Clarke are just two of many on the list. You can expect a lot more petrol bombing and shootings if the cops don't step up to the mark and close these criminals down."
Appealing for information about the gun attack on Emma's Style & Smile salon, a PSNI spokesman said: "Inquiries are underway to establish a motive for the incident. Anyone with any information which could assist detectives is asked to contact them at Antrim on 101."