Northern Ireland news

Boy left shaken after sectarian assault in Oldpark

`They hit him and kicked him in the face.'

A WOMAN who rescued an 11-year-old boy kicked in the face during a sectarian attack said his young assailants followed her car to see where he lives.

His father told The Irish News the GP had sent the boy to hospital to assess a leg injury suffered in the attack by up to seven youths in north Belfast.

The boy was walking along Oldpark Road at around 3.30pm on Sunday when he met the group who were around his own age.

One, described as having dark black hair with a long fringe and black trainers, called him a "hun" and - after they all chased him - kicked him in the face.

The boy was rescued by Caitlin McErlean, who got him into her car and home to his father.

"I'm never in that area, but my stepmum's granny had died and I was leaving a Mass card," the 22-year-old said.

"He was running away and a couple of them caught him and hit him.

"When I stopped they dispersed a little bit but they didn't leave until I grabbed my phone. I got him into the car and told him I would get him home.

"I was telling him it was OK and we would get it sorted but we were both shaking.

"He was lovely boy, so polite. We were actually at the top of his street when it happened and when I parked outside his house I could see them gathered watching which house we were going into."

His father who does not want to be named said the boy "is still pretty shaken up".

"He only comes here at weekends and wouldn't know many people round here so I don't know if they just saw him and because they didn't know him made assumptions.

"I had just sent him to the shop - it's just 500 yards from the front door. They just started to accuse him and said he was a `hun'. He felt threatened and in danger and tried to run away.

"They hit him and kicked him in the face."

He said his blood runs cold thinking about what could have happened to his boy if Ms McErlean hadn't stopped to help.

"He ran across a main road to get away from them - he could have been hit by a car.

"I think they were looking for an excuse and my son was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The boy is back in his mother's house "across town", with both parents "watching to see what impact it will have on him".

"I think people should know this is happening in their communities, parents might know something and have a word with their children, let them know this type of behaviour is not tolerated," his father said.

"Society is under enough pressure, young people are under enough pressure."

Ms McErlean, a secondary school classroom assistant, said she hopes the boys are tracked down and made to understand what they did.

"I don't want him to be afraid of this community, to come back to his father's house.

"It's never too late to be a good person. It's never too late to put it right."

Police said anyone who witnessed the assault or has information to contact detectives at Tennent Street on 101, quoting the reference number 2021022801409 via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/

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Northern Ireland news