Arson Suspected As Blaze Almost Claims Life

Police are investigating two suspected arson attacks in a residential area of east Belfast.

In the latest incident, a house at St Leonard's Crescent was almost destroyed in a blaze.

Occupant Stephen McElwee was asleep when his home went up in flames. His neighbours raised the alarm and he was able to escape unhurt, but the fire destroyed almost everything he owns.

Mr McElwee - who said he had not slept in the two nights since the blaze - commented: "It was terrifying. I didn't believe it until I saw the flames. The house is completely gutted. It might have to be pulled down. That hurts. I like living here and I am not going to move out for them."

Residents on the street want alley gates installed to restrict access to the backs of their homes.

They have been told that there is no money to pay for gates and if they want them, they will have to foot the bill, estimated at between £8,000 and £9,000, themselves.

Police said initial investigations suggested that something may have been thrown at Mr McElwee's house and that an oil tank went on fire.
News Image
Alliance representative Laura McNamee has joined residents in condemning the attack and calling for a gate to be installed in the alley between Chadolly Street and St Leonard’s Crescent.

Ms McNamee believes an alley gate could help prevent such attacks in future as the open alley currently provides an escape route for those involved in such incidents.

The Alliance representative commented: “This was an appalling attack and my thoughts are with the man whose house has been gutted in this incident. I was extremely shocked to learn of these incidents, particularly given the number of older people in the street who would have difficulty in quickly leaving their home in the event of a fire. This very nearly could have been the case last night, had it not been for vigilant neighbours.

“Given the threat that these attacks posed, I asked Council officials to add this street to the list of places that would get alley gates installed and we are currently exploring the possibility of donating equipment and money towards the cost of residents erecting gates themselves. I understand some local organisations have already offered to donate towards this initiative. I have also asked the Housing Executive if they would consider installing CCTV in the area in an effort to identify those behind the arson attacks.”

Ms McNamee joined police in appealing for anyone with information to please come forward.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

26 July 2021
'Teenagers Misusing Equipment' Blamed For Planet Fun Incident
Teenagers misusing equipment have been blamed for an incident at a funfair in Carrickfergus. Six people, including three children, needed hospital treatment for injuries sustained on a swing ride at Planet Fun at around 18:00 on Saturday 24 July.
22 July 2021
Up To 70 Young People Involved In 'Mass Brawl' In Portrush
An investigation has been launched following what has been described as a "mass brawl" in Portrush, County Antrim. According to reports up to 70 young people were involved in the incident, which occurred at the Eglinton Street railway station at about 8:40 on Wednesday, 21 July.
15 July 2021
British Govt Accused Of Attempting To 'Hide Its Role In The Conflict'
The British government is "intent on hiding its role in the conflict and putting its forces beyond the law", Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill has said. The Deputy First Minister was responding after Boris Johnson confirmed that the UK government would bring forward legislation to ban all prosecutions related to the Troubles.
02 July 2021
Govts Urged To Ensure Full Implementation Of Stormont House Agreement
Sinn Féin's MP team has called on both the UK and Irish government to ensure the Stormont House Agreement is implemented in full.
27 May 2021
Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Murder
A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with a fatal house fire in Newry last Friday. The blaze, which killed 62-year-old Jimmy Thompson and another person was seriously injured, is being treated as deliberate. The suspect has been detained in police custody.