AN OMAGH man with Asperger’s syndrome fears lives could be lost after a string of arson attacks outside his home.
Patrick Irwin, who lives on his own in an upstairs flat in Riverview Park, off Hospital Road, told the Herald he had been left feeling “very shaken” after the fifth incident in the last six months. Two of these attacks happened within the past five days.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, a Suzuki moped belonging to Mr Irwin’s downstairs neighbour was set alight in the back garden of the Housing Executive property, and on Saturday night bins outside the building were set on fire.
Firefighters tasked to the scene of the moped fire extinguished the blaze, but the vehicle was completely destroyed and damage was caused to the windows of the two flats as well as the exterior of the building.
While no-one was injured this time, Mr Irwin warned that the attacks outside the property were getting worse. On the previous three occasions, bins had also been set on fire.
“I’m afraid I won’t wake up one night,” he admitted.
Mr Irwin has lived in his flat for eight years and doesn’t want to move, despite worries over the animals that he keeps in the property. These include a gecko and two chinchillas.
“I love this flat. I don’t want to move. I have it the way I like it,” he said.
The Housing Executive tenant has a simple message for those responsible.
“Whoever’s doing it, wise up,” he said.
Early on Thursday Mr Irwin was playing video games in his flat when he smelled “electrical” smoke and, at first, thought a plug had gone in the house.
But, when he went to check his property, he couldn’t see the other end of his kitchen due to the smoke. After contacting the Fire Service, he checked on his neighbours. Luckily, he said, the man living downstairs wasn’t home.
“Because it was a moped, I was scared of the tank blowing,” he said.
Mr Irwin also knocked on the door of an adjacent property, knowing that there were young children and animals inside.
While the fire was put out without any casualties, Mr Irwin, who stresses very easily due to his condition, said, “I could not sleep one bit.”
He added, “Somebody keeps vandalising the outside lights as well, so nobody’s been caught.”
Over the last six months, Mr Irwin said that several good neighbours have moved out of the property due to the incidents.
“The neighbours got me out the last time. I was asleep,” he added.
A PSNI spokesperson said that enquiries were continuing into Thursday’s arson attack.
“We are appealing to anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 18 25/07/19. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100 per-cent anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime,” the spokesperson added.