A CASTLEDERG family has been left living in fear after a recent series of “despicable and cowardly” attacks and threats against them.
The distressed family, which includes a young man with autism, believe they are being targeted because they are Catholics.
The incidents began on March 5, when there was an attempted break-in at a house in Millbrook Gardens, recently let to the young adult with special needs.
According to the family, he was warned should he move into the house, it would be burned.
Two weeks later, on March 18, his aunt’s home, also in Millbrook Gardens, was attacked by at least two assailants dressed in black clothing, who also damaged a car outside. They smashed windows of the car and the front window of the house sometime between midnight and 12.15am.
Speaking to the Chronicle, the woman, who did not want to be named, said her nephew had been left “terrified”.
She said, “He never got to move in. How could anyone do that to a man with special needs? It’s disgusting. They left him terrified, but he’s in a safe place at the moment.”
West Tyrone MLA, Maoliosa McHugh, said it had been a deeply traumatic ordeal for the family, who are now living in fear.
He said, “The family originally herald from Donegal and believe they were targeted simply because they are Catholics.”
Mr McHugh added, “While the motive is considered to be sectarian, it bears absolutely no reflection on the good people of Millbrook who are similarly being held to ransom by the same small criminal element who carried out these despicable and cowardly attacks. Local residents are afraid to speak out.”
Mr McHugh called on the police to support the family and the wider community in Millbrook Gardens.
“I have spoken to the PSNI who say they have stepped up patrols in the area since the attacks on this family. This is welcome, but a much more focused approach is also needed to disrupt and bring to an end the community-wrecking activities of the small criminal element,” he added.
Derg Councillor Steven Edwards added, “This attack in Millbrook Gardens is reprehensible, disgusting and downright sectarian. As a public representative for the area, I want to make it clear that there is no place for this type of behaviour in our society. I have spoken to the PSNI regarding this issue who have confirmed they are treating this as a hate crime given the nature of the attack.
“My thoughts are with the family involved. I can’t even begin to imagine how this is impacting them and I have offered my full support to them.
“Any form of sectarianism, no matter what community it is targeted at, is unacceptable and should be called out.
“I would urge anyone who has information on this attack to come forward to the PSNI.”
A PSNI spokesperson said that the Strabane Rural Neighbourhood Team was investigating both incidents. It is understood the damage to the house and car is being treated as a hate crime.
The spokesperson added, “Police have been carrying out high visibility patrols in the area to provide reassurance to local residents. Anyone with any information about those responsible for these incidents is asked to ring police on 101.”