PSNI condemns ‘reckless’ arson attack on officer’s home
Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister Naomi Long has condemned an arson attack at the home of a police officer in Co Antrim as “appalling and cowardly”.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said three cars were set alight at the property in Larne in the early hours of Thursday (April 29) in a “reckless attack”.
The fire also caused scorch damage to the house where the officer, his wife and daughter had been asleep at the time.
The trio were not injured in what has been described as a “terrifying ordeal” for the family.
Ms Long said she “does not underestimate the distress that is caused by an incident of this nature at a family home”.
“Our police officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep us all safe,” she said.
She added: “My thoughts are with this officer, their family and colleagues.
“This violence achieves absolutely nothing and needs to stop.”
Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan linked the attack with loyalist anger over post-Brexit arrangements, additional checks at ports which they regard as a border in the Irish Sea.
“In recent months there has been increasingly violent rhetoric targeting the PSNI and police officers with sinister posters and graffiti appearing in loyalist areas across the north,” he said.
“These loyalist paramilitary gangs need to pack up and go away once and for all.”
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) said the incident was a “vile act of attempted intimidation”.
PFNI chair Mark Lindsay said: “This was thuggery and an attempt to intimidate an off-duty officer. In the early hours of this morning, some individual or group decided they would target the property of an officer.
“Skulking in the dark, they set alight and destroyed three cars at the front of the house. Thankfully, no one was injured. This arson attack was an act of terror, an act of madness.
“This was a vile and reprehensible action against an officer who works to protect the community. Faceless bullies need to be apprehended, and I would echo the appeal made by the PSNI to the people of Larne to help track down those responsible for the attack.
“Police officers are as much a part of the community they serve and it is time the community rallied round to end this type of terror.
“My thoughts are with the officer and his family and they should know that no stone will be left unturned in the investigation that has commenced.”
Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart said it was “sadly not the first time that arsonists have targeted cars at residential properties in the Larne area”.
“But the fact that the house outside which these vehicles were parked belongs to a serving police officer, makes this a particularly sinister incident,” he said.
“I will repeat what I have always said when cars have been burnt out in the past; the gangsters responsible for this have no support in the community and the people of Larne want nothing to do with this type of activity. It is time for the police – and especially the judiciary – to come down hard on whoever is behind this and put these criminals behind bars for a very long time.”
The PSNI said it was “keeping an open mind” in terms of the motivation behind the attack but that a primary line of inquiry was that criminal elements may have been responsible.
Detective Chief Inspector Dunny McCubbin said it was a “completely reckless attack which could have had serious consequences”.
“Thankfully, no injuries have been reported in what was a terrifying ordeal for the officer and his family,” he said.
“There are no words to describe those who would set fire to vehicles in the dark of night outside a family home when the occupants were asleep inside.
“Their actions stand in stark contrast to the officer who everyday serves our community with dignity, respect and courtesy.
“At the present time we are keeping an open mind as to the motivation behind this attack, however a primary line of enquiry is that criminal elements may be responsible.
“Detectives have now initiated a full investigation, which I can assure the community will be thorough and robust.
“I would take this opportunity to appeal for the help of the people of Larne and further afield in identifying those responsible.”