Northern Ireland news

Video: Police believe arson attacks on cars in Belfast Holylands could be linked

Brendan Hughes

POLICE believe overnight arson attacks damaging five cars in south Belfast could be linked to a similar incident some weeks earlier.

A Mini was completely destroyed while a Ford Fiesta, Renault Megane and Volkswagen Golf were extensively damaged yesterday along Collingwood Avenue in the Holylands area.

A fifth car, a Volkswagen Polo, parked on nearby Damascus Street, also sustained damage.

It comes after three cars were damaged after being set alight in the same area just over a fortnight ago, during the early hours of October 7.

Student Jay Brackenbury, who lives in the Holylands, yesterday said he was "in shock" after seeing the damage to his Ford Fiesta.

The 20-year-old from Banbridge, a second-year business student at Belfast Metropolitan College, described those behind the arson attack as "hooligans".

"My friend ran into my room and just woke me up saying, 'Sorry, I've got bad news – your car has been burnt out,'" he said.

"I'm actually speechless. The entire front of it was burnt out and it is a write-off."

Several cars were damaged at Collingwood Avenue in the Holylands area of south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Another student whose car was damaged said he was alerted to the arson after midnight by the sound of a loud bang.

"I heard a bang and went outside. It was clear and obvious there was smoke and fire," the 22-year-old said.

"The diesel cap was opened up and we think cardboard was put inside doused in petrol or some sort of flammable liquid and then set alight.

The final-year student, who did not wish to be named, added: "It took me a while to save up to buy that car. I haven't slept thinking about it."

Several cars were damaged at Collingwood Avenue in the Holylands area of south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick condemned the attacks as "wanton destruction of people's hard earned property".

"It is also incredibly dangerous as each of these cars were parked in a heavily populated area. The consequences of these vehicle fires could have been catastrophic," he said.

"We are treating these incidents as arson and are following a number of lines of enquiry."

He said they were "also making enquiries into any potential links" to the October 7 arson attacks on a Renault Clio and Audi parked on Collingwood Avenue and a Volkswagen Sharan on Damascus Street.

Police were alerted to the latest incidents at 1.45am when fire crews were called to Collingwood Avenue, where four cars and an industrial bin were on fire.

Officers received another report after 5.30am that firefighters were dealing with another fire in which the Volkswagen Polo was damaged.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw called for an increased police presence in the Lower Ormeau and Holylands areas, saying that anti-social behaviour is "terrorising local residents".

"This anti-social behaviour has now escalated, leading to many waking up today to find their treasured possession has been recklessly destroyed," she said.

"We are also seeing mass brawls in the middle of the Ormeau Road, with drunk young people staggering about putting themselves and motorists in danger."

SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna condemned the arson attacks.

"This is a shocking spate of arson attacks to happen in one night and will cause extreme distress for people living in the area," she said.

"Ongoing vandalism and anti-social behaviour plague the community here, and these incidents will heighten concern."

Police appealed for anyone with information about the arson attacks to phone them on 101 quoting reference number 79 of October 23 2019, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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