Northern Ireland news

Terrifying hijacking spree after assault on three women in Co Down

The Renault Clio was set on fire in Beechmount Avenue in west Belfast
Mairead Holland

A terrifying hijacking spree across Co Down and Belfast has been condemned by politicians.

It is thought the same two men were involved in crimes across the Dundrum, Lisburn, Carryduff and west Belfast areas over a one-and-a-half-hour period on Saturday.

It began at around 11am when three women were assaulted by two men who were travelling in a Volkswagen Golf on the Newcastle Road in Dundrum, close to the 12 Arches and Murlough beach.

A car matching the description was then involved in a crash on the Old Ballynahinch Road in Lisburn 40 minutes later.

The two male occupants hijacked a Peugeot 208 at the scene and made off.

A short time after this, police received reports of an attempted hijacking and hijacking in the Saintfield Road area of Belfast, close to the Ivanhoe Hotel, following a crash.

A Renault Clio was then stolen from its owner in the vicinity of Purdysburn Road.

The car was reported to have been driven recklessly in the Boucher Road and Beechmount areas before being abandoned and set on fire in Beechmount Avenue shortly before 12.25pm.

Hugh Gallagher, SDLP councillor on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, said Dundrum and the surrounding area is "very quiet and close-knit" and the assaults were "a shock to the whole community".

"This is a known tourist destination, close to Murlough beach, and I hope something like this would not be repeated.

"I will be speaking to the police about patrolling that area, especially coming in to the summer months."

Ciaran Beattie, Sinn Féin group leader on Belfast City Council, also condemned those who had driven the stolen car recklessly "threatening the safety of local people".

"Those responsible are nothing short of an embarrassment, they need to hang their heads in shame," he said.

"Our community will not be dragged back."

Police are appealing for witnesses, in particular anyone who has dashcam footage of the incidents, to contact detectives or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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