Northern Ireland

Mass-goers 'distress' as cars targeted in criminal damage outside Ballymena church

Vehicles belonging to parishioners attending Mass at All Saints' Church in Ballymena were targeted in an act of criminal damage on Sunday.
Vehicles belonging to parishioners attending Mass at All Saints' Church in Ballymena were targeted in an act of criminal damage on Sunday. Vehicles belonging to parishioners attending Mass at All Saints' Church in Ballymena were targeted in an act of criminal damage on Sunday.

A NUMBER of Mass-goers in Ballymena were left in "great distress" after their vehicles were deliberately damaged while parked outside a church.

The vehicles were targeted last Sunday morning as the owners attended Mass at All Saints' Church in the Broughshane Road area.

The vehicles were parked on the Cushendall Road side of the church and were damaged at around 10.45am.

It was reported that a man walking past the parked cars scratched them with a "sharp object".

In total, five vehicles were damaged.

A PSNI spokesperson said the suspect is described as wearing jeans, white trainers and a navy-blue long coat with a fur-lined hood.

The church had recently hosted relics of Padre Pio including a piece of the saint's mantle and a lock of his hair.

They had been displayed at the church earlier this month as part of a wider tour of the north organised by the Saint Pio Foundation, with hundreds of devotees attending to venerate the items.

A spokesperson for the diocese of Down and Connor condemned the targeting of the cars.

"This criminal action has caused great distress for the owners of the vehicles," they said, adding: "We would encourage anyone with information in respect of this incident to report it to the PSNI."

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said it was clear the incident was "pre-meditated" and also encouraged anyone with information to contact police.

"I am extremely disappointed and disgusted at this attack on the property of numerous parishioners as they attended mass and its needs to be condemned," he said.

"Anyone attending their place of worship should be free to do so without any fear or worry."