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Catholic couple targeted in sectarian attack get personal apology from senior PSNI officer over response delay

Damage caused to the couple's car in east Belfast
Connla Young

A SENIOR PSNI officer has apologised to a Catholic couple who waited almost an hour for police to respond to an attack on their home by a loyalist mob.

The couple, who were branded "Fenian b*******s" during the terrifying ordeal last Friday in east Belfast, say they have been left homeless.

Last night they said they could not return to the property at London Street, off the Ravenhill Road.

The spoke out after it emerged that it took police almost an hour for police to respond to the loyalist attack.

During their ordeal, which police have described as a "hate crime", the woman was hit on the head with a traffic cone. Damage was also caused to a car.

A 16-year-old arrested in connection with the incident has been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

The couple, who do not want to be identified, believe they were singled out because the man, who is a member of a GAA club in the greater Belfast area, may have been seen playing hurling in nearby Ormeau Park.

The PSNI issued a statement on Wednesday apologising for "an avoidable delay" in responding to the attack.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said: "Following a review of or initial handling of this incident police have apologised to the reporting persons for what we have concluded was an avoidable delay in our response to this hate crime.

"We will ensure that lessons are quickly learnt and applied to prevent any further recurrence."

Last night the couple revealed that a senior PSNI officer also rang them on Wednesday to apologise.

"A superintendent phoned us personally and talked us through what had happened," the man explained.

"He said 'we take full responsibility for this, we got it wrong', which obviously we are grateful for. It's quite big to say that obviously and to publicly say it."

The man added that the "apology seemed completely genuine".

"We are not happy that it happened and we do understand that everyone can make mistakes and unfortunately were the ones that had to pay the price for their mistake and continue to pay the price obviously too."

The man also thanked Justice Minister Naomi Long, the Alliance Party leader who is also an East Belfast MLA for her support.

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