Larne residents voice concern over more head shop attacks

The Northern Lights shop on Dunluce Street, which was burnt out in an arson attack on Saturday May 2. INLT-18-712-con
The Northern Lights shop on Dunluce Street, which was burnt out in an arson attack on Saturday May 2. INLT-18-712-con

Residents who were moved from their homes after an arson attempt on a so-called head shop say they are living in fear of another attack.

Detectives are appealing for information following the blaze at the Dunluce Street hydroponics store, which took place in the early hours of Saturday, May 2.

At approximately 3.45am, police received a report regarding the fire. The shutters of the shop had been forced open and a fire started inside, leading to the evacuation of the flats.

One resident, who did not wish to be identified, recalled: “It was around 3am and I hadn’t heard a thing, but my flatmate came in and shook me.

“We had our windows open and smoke was pouring out of the place below.

“Initially I thought there was a fire in our flat.

“I grabbed my dog and we rushed out. It was a big shock.”

Last year, a court permitted Larne Borough Council to destroy hundreds of sachets of suspected legal highs in packages with names like Magic Dragon, Pink Panther and Bullet Capsule which were seized from the Northern Lights store in a joint raid with the PSNI in July.

Later that month, graffiti was painted on the shop’s shutters with the words: “Do not open or else.”

The Times understands that in October, a hoax device which resulted in a number of streets being sealed off and businesses evacuated was found in the area of the Northern Lights hydroponics shop.

Following the latest incident, the concerned resident says that neighbours are “living in fear” that a similar attack will happen.

He stated: “We had hoped that the shop would have been closed down after the fire, but it opened again after forensic teams left.

“Now we are hoping that the landlord will put them out. It was a frightening experience.”

Det Insp Peter Mullan is appealing to anyone who was in the area and witnessed the arson attack or noticed any suspicious activity to contact Reactive and Organised Crime Detectives at Larne Police Station on the non-emergency number 101. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Weekend reports indicate that the police are seeking new powers to deal with legal highs. Det Supt Andrea McMullan told the Times: “We are working with a range of agencies to ensure new legislation is introduced to help us combat the threat posed by these substances.

“The timing for this, however, is a matter for Government.

“PSNI is working hard to build the expertise and knowledge base on these new psychoactive substances within a national framework. This is one drug problem that has to be tackled nationally.”