Northern Ireland news

Calls for secure parking for hospital staff after knife attack

The victim had just finished a shift at the Mater Hospital when the would-be hijacker attacked her

THERE have been calls for the Belfast health trust to ensure secure parking for staff after a woman was forced to fight off a knife-wielding hijacker as she finished a shift in the Mater Hospital in the early hours of Sunday.

The victim, aged in her twenties and thought to be a doctor, was returning to her car on Fleetwood Street in north Belfast shortly after midnight when she was attacked.

A man armed with a 6in or 7in knife tried to pull her from her car. The woman fought off the assailant, who slashed the sleeve of her jacket. She ran back towards the hospital to raise the alarm.

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker, a nurse at the hospital, said he will contact the trust to raise concerns about staff safety.

Although there is a secure staff car park, Mr McCusker says it is often full, forcing staff to park in nearby streets.

The side street where the woman’s car was parked is poorly lit and few people were around at the time of the attack.

“I have on occasions walked with female members of staff to their cars after finishing a late shift because they didn’t feel safe. The area around the hospital can be dangerous at night,” Mr McCusker said.

“There are a lot of nurses, doctors and teams working out of hours, away from their families at Christmas, providing an essential service.

“There have been other incidents where staff cars have been broken into or damaged when parked in side streets, although this is by far the most serious attack I’ve heard of.

“The trust need to review their duty of care to staff and ensure that there is adequate available parking for those working late shifts, and to ensure that their safety is a priority.

“I know myself if you come out of a long shift, late at night, mentally and physically exhausted you just want to get home to your family and rest.

“To then experience something as violent and horrific as this staff member did is just unacceptable.”

Police said the attacker made his way up Antrim Road towards Vicinage Park before he was picked up in a silver car. He was 5ft 5ins, skinny and clean-shaven with some stubble. He wore dark clothes but was not wearing gloves. He spoke with a Belfast accent.

“This was a frightening episode for this woman to experience as she finished a hospital shift helping others and we are appealing to the public for help,” police said.

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