Attempted mass murder
Attempted mass murder

A couple and their three-month-old baby have been forced from their home in north Belfast following an arson attack on Sunday.

A loyalist gang from the White City area of north Belfast tried to burn down the home of Mickey Magennis in the Whitewell district.

His girlfriend, Juanita Magennis, and 12-week-old baby daughter Mollie narrowly escaped injury in the blaze that left the house extensively damaged.

Mr Magennis said his family is lucky to be alive and is now considering moving out of the area.

“We only moved into the house in February. We have a mortgage and are trying to make a life, and then something like this happens,” he said.

“This could have been much worse. My girlfriend woke up when she heard the window smashing. If she had not got up both her and the baby would have burned to death.”

Firefighters who battled the blaze said the flames were 20 feet high when they arrived.

Station Commander Mark Beresford said the Magennis family was fortunate to escape.

“I think they were alerted fairly early on. One of the neighbours knocked the door and at the same time, the windows started to smash so the woman and the child were able to get out fairly quickly,” he said.

“They were fairly lucky, if it had been much longer this could have been a tragedy.”

Last year three homes in the same area suffered severe damage in a sectarian arson attack. Loyalists set light to an oil tank at the rear of a property which spread to neighbouring houses.

Sinn Féin councillor Tierna Cunningham accused the loyalist gang of attempted murder.

“They are a young couple with a young baby, trying to make a start in life, and this type of thing, in this day and age, is not on,” she said.

She said that while most of the summer had been quiet in the area, there had been a “flare-up” of trouble in recent weeks, with sectarian assaults and death threats.

“It is just so disappointing because there had been dialogue and things were quiet,” she said.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News