Northern Ireland news

Teen describes how he was beaten by gang in sectarian attack

Robert Holmes suffered head injuries in the attack

A 14-YEAR-old boy who suffered a fractured skull and bruising on the brain in a sectarian attack has described how he was beaten by youths wielding sticks and bottles.

Robert Holmes, from the Tigers Bay area of north Belfast, was walking with friends near the interface with the nationalist New Lodge at around 7pm on Saturday when he was confronted by a group at North Queen Street.

Police said the assault was carried out by "three males" while the rest watched.

His family said they believe up to seven people were involved in the attack on the teenager, who managed to make his way to safety at his brother's house after a friend intervened.

Robert said last night he believed his attackers were from the New Lodge area.

"Saturday night me and my two mates were walking down... to the (Yorkgate) garage and around six or seven wee lads ran over from the New Lodge," he told UTV.

"They had sticks and bottles and all that and my two mates ran. They ran back after I was getting beaten by around six of them. They had me on the ground and were beating me and all.

"It was frightening, so it was. There was so much wee lads around me."

Robert's mother Lesia said she was "very hurt" for her teenage son.

"I'm angry, I'm very very angry that your child can't even go to a shop without being attacked," she said.

DUP North Belfast MLA William Humphrey said Robert was subjected to "a depraved and utterly vicious sectarian assault".

"This brutal attack could have resulted in fatal injuries and it will have made a deep impact on him," he said.

"It is a relief that he has been able to come home after two nights in hospital.

"The PSNI have confirmed that they are treating this attack as a sectarian hate crime and there is no doubt that that is what it was.

"I call on all elected representatives to be unequivocal in condemning this sectarian attack and to join me in calling for clear co-operation with the police investigation to bring those responsible to justice for their depraved actions."

About an hour after the attack, a police vehicle was damaged when officers were called to a bin on fire in Victoria Parade.

Sinn Fein assembly member JJ Magee said people were concerned by anti-social behaviour in the area.

He said they were angry at “any attack on any young person but particularly because it was sectarian”.

“A lot of people in the community have been in touch with me today,” he said.

Saturday also saw violence in west Belfast, with more than 70 young people gathering in the Stewartstown Road area, playing music and drinking in a wooded area near the Dairy Farm Centre.

Police called to the scene were attacked at around 10.20pm.

When officers tried to arrest a teenager they were also attacked, with one officer injured.

A 17-year-old boy was later arrested.

Yesterday, police confirmed he had been charged with offences including riotous behaviour, attempted criminal damage and assaulting police.

He is due to appear at Lisburn Youth Court on April 20.

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