Loyalist paramilitary involvement not ruled out after racist thugs go on rampage

Suzanne McGonagle s.mcgonagle@irishnews,com

AN orchestrated campaign of racist attacks in east Belfast had last night left some of its victims considering their future in Northern Ireland.

Eastern European families - many with young children - were the target of the wave of racist attacks on Monday night.

Houses and cars were damaged and racist slogans painted on several locations in the Bloomfield Avenue area.

Two of the families attacked, both from Slovakia, told The Irish News of the fears with one distraught mother describing how she was now "scared for the lives of my children".

Police said there was "clearly a racial motivation" to the attacks with those responsible intent to "intimidate and scare people".

They said it was too early to say which group was responsible but have not ruled out loyalist paramilitary involvement.

Paint was thrown at a car and all its windows smashed in Rosebery Street, while the windows of a house in Chobham Street were smashed and paint thrown at the property.

Damage was also caused to a house in Bloomfield Avenue and a Fiat Punto car parked on the Raven-scroft Street.

Racist slogans were painted on several gable walls in the area, including the junction of Elmdale Street and Bately Street, Rosebery Street and Chobham Street.

A group of men were seen running off towards the Ravenscroft area shortly after the graffiti appeared around 11pm.

Among those targeted was Ruzena Lakatosova, who was at home with her three daughters aged 14, 11 and eight.

The Sloviakian family were all sitting in the front room of their Bloomfield Avenue property watching television when paint bombs were thrown.

One of the children suffered a cut to her head as she was showered with glass as bottles containing paint came smashing through.

The family were yesterday clearing up the damage, with glass and paint strewn across the room, along the floor and over a glass cabinet containing family crystal and a china tea-set.

"We have lived here for two years, I don't know why they have done this," she said.

"This has never happened before and I am scared and frightened."

Ms Lakatosova said she was un-sure if she could continue to live in the house.

Just a few streets away, paint was thrown at a car and its windows smashed in Rosebery Street.

The message "Get Out" was daubed along the side of the Mazda 6 vehicle.

More racist slogans that stated "Romanians out" were daubed on a wall on the street.

The family targeted, which included three children aged 11, 4 and 2, have lived at the property for two years. The woman in the house, who was too scared to give her name, said: "I won't stay here in Belfast".

"I heard a noise and looked out and they were there with hoods over their faces and baseball bats," she said.

"I was so scared. I have children, I won't stay here in Belfast.

"I am scared for the lives of my children."

Her 11-year-old son said: "They say we are Romanian, we are from Slovakia. We have done nothing wrong".

Residents living nearby spoke of the disgust at the attacks with one woman saying: "I don't know why this happened as they are a very friendly family".

However, one woman walking near the scene of the attacks said towards a group of journalists: "Good on the ones who did it".

She was later seen queuing up to leave children off at a nearby Holiday Bible Club.

Superintendent Mark McEwan said they are investigating a link between the attacks, which were racially motivated and "designed to intimidate families".

"These included attacks on people's homes, attacks on people's cars, attacks on homes and many of them family homes with young children staying in them, so horrendous in nature and clearly racially motivated - clearly designed to intimidate and scare people," he said.

"There is a certain level of orchestration to this group of people, some of them masked, who carried out these attacks but at this point we are unable to say whether any particular group is involved."

? Editorial ? P16

* GRAFFITI: Above, above left, and far right, racist graffiti appeared on gable walls in east Belfast. Homes and cars have been attacked and racist graffiti has been daubed on walls in east Belfast in a spate of "hate crimes" that police have said are linked. The windows of two houses in Bloomfield Avenue and Chobham Street were smashed overnight. Paint was also thrown over the second property. Two cars were damaged in Rosebery Street and Ravenscroft Street. Racist graffiti appeared on gable walls near Chobham Street and at a junction of Elmdale Street and Bately Street. Right, Ruzena Lakatosova at home yesterday after the attack, in which paint bombs were thrown, destroying furniture and family crystal

PICTURES: Hugh Russell

* 'RACIALLY MOTIVATED': Above left, Superintendent Mark McEwan talks to the press yesterday after a spate of racist attacks in east Belfast. Inset, an example of the graffiti that was daubed on walls in east Belfast


Hugh Russell


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: