Northern Ireland news

Leading milliner describes anger after Belfast boutique targeted by would-be robber

Grainne Maher pictured in her shop in The Spires shopping mall. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

ONE of Ireland's best known hat designers has spoken of her anger after her Belfast city centre boutique was targeted by a would-be robber armed with a knife.

GrĂ¡inne Maher, who also creates award-winning jewellery, spoke out as she confirmed that her store The Vault, in The Spires shopping mall, will have to close at the end of June after two years.

The businesswoman, whose creations have been worn by US singer Selena Gomez and X-Factor star Alexandra Burke, said a member of staff was working in the shop when a man entered with a knife at around 3.10pm on Wednesday.

After attempting to rob the till, he fled empty-handed in the direction of College Square East.

Ms Maher, a mother-of-three from Belfast, later wrote on Facebook page how she was left "angry, upset and freaked out".

"So, it turns out there really are bad bad people out there," she said.

"I don't even feel the same standing here today in my own space."

The milliner also announced that she will be closing her store on June 30 because Spires Mall at Fisherwick Place is closing "and we all have no choice but to move out".

The move comes after the Presbyterian Church - which owns the building - announced a refurbishment of the ground floor.

Tenants must leave by the end of June to allow work to create additional conferencing facilities.

Ms Maher, who is currently looking for new premises, said she was "devastated" to be closing the store.

"It's a beautiful space and it was a great setting for luxury designer brands," she told The Irish News.

"Maybe one thing good will mean that wherever we find to move to, we won't have the rotten memory of some armed scumbag coming in to steal from us.

"Feeling safe and happy isn't a luxury, it's something we should all be able to expect in our place of work".

The Presbyterian Church said in order "to fulfil its work and mission", a proposal for the refurbishment was approved.

"This will include additional conferencing facilities for the city. To enable this work to commence, the few outlets currently remaining will leave the building by the end of June".

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