A man is in hospital, seriously injured and facing a long and painful recovery after a vicious attack in Larne on Sunday night.
A police officer sustained an eye injury in the violent clashes that once again plunged an otherwise peaceful town back in to the dark ages of the Troubles.
In the aftermath of a 100-strong mob of masked men wrecking three houses – two at Ferris Avenue and the other at Knockdhu Park – the police chief who was duty officer at the time has defended the PSNI response and issued a strong plea for information from the community to aid the investigation into Sunday’s events and wider criminal activity in Larne.
In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Larne area commander Chief Insp Catherine Magee revealed that the man taken to hospital has “extensive and serious injuries”, adding: “I think it is going to be a very long and slow recovery and any account of what happened on Sunday night will bring no comfort to him and his family members, who are now living with the unimaginable consequences of the acts of an unruly mob”.
The injured officer had glass in one eye when the windscreen of his patrol car was smashed as the mob turned on police arriving at the scene. “Thankfully, on this occasion, we are delighted that his eye is OK, but the circumstances which led to the injury to the officer and the serious injuries to the member of the public are just totally unacceptable in any modern society,” said the senior officer.
Chief Insp Magee said: “The impacts of this event are much broader than the families directly affected and the police who went to respond and I would like to send out a clear message that this type of organised criminal behaviour in Larne is totally unacceptable and the police will continue to work to do everything that we can to bring and end to it and to bring the offenders to justice.”
She added: “There are people in the community who know information and we need them to phone us. Either contact us directly through their local neighbourhood policing team, phone our new number 101, or contact us through Crimestoppers which is 0800 555111.
“The community know: they know who is dealing drugs, they know the illegal taxis, they know who has got counterfeit goods, they know who is involved in this activity. We need them to tell us, so that we can provide the best policing response possible.”
The PSNI chief urged: “I can’t stress how important it is that the community tell us the information that they know. There are mothers, wives, partners, brothers in the Larne community who know who is involved in all of this activity. They knew that they were going to be involved in something that night, but they didn’t tell us. And if the community don’t tell us and the community don’t share the information that they have, we cannot be as effective.”
She pledged that police will act on information. “The best information we can receive is a written statement, where a member of the community will come forward and make a written statement about what they know, or what they have seen in relation to any form of criminal activity. We can take that to court and we do take it to court. In the last two weeks in the Larne area we have arrested eight people. We have further arrests to come. Six people have been charged.”