A North Belfast father-of-three was stabbed in the head and neck with a spear in a near-fatal sectarian attack.
A casual stroll home from the pub almost ended in tragedy for Ray Sloan as he was viciously attacked by a gang of up to 10 youths in Duncairn Gardens.
Medical staff told the 32-year-old he was lucky to be alive following the attack on Monday night which left him with stitches and staples on his head and neck -- inside and out.
Ray was showered with missiles of all descriptions as he walked up Duncairn Gardens towards the Antrim Road shortly before 8pm on Monday.
He was bombarded with sectarian abuse as he tried to fight off his attackers. Ray admitted he was terrified he wasn’t going to make it as he tried to run to safety. With blood gushing out of his head and neck after being stabbed with a weapon he described as a “spear”, Ray managed to make a distressed 999 call before collapsing in a heap in North Queen Street.
Ray says he would not be alive but for a passer-by who got him to hospital.
He said that he was certain his attackers were out to kill him. “I know by the way these boys were tooled-up they meant business,” he said.
“I know it was nothing personal, they were waiting on any unsuspecting Catholic who was an easy target and unfortunately that turned out to be me.
“My gut instinct was to try and fight back but there were too many of them and with the amount of weapons they had I didn’t stand a chance.
“All I remember thinking was not to let them get me on the ground because I knew then that would be the end but once the blood started gushing down my neck all the strength just drained out of me and to be honest I can’t believe I am sitting here telling this story.
“I’m under no illusions. these boys went for my jugular, they wanted to kill me and I just want this to be a lesson to everyone else to be careful.”
Ray’s mother Bernie said she immediately feared the worst when she heard her son had been attacked.
“I was terrified on the way to the hospital because you can’t help but think the worst when you hear something like this,” she said.
“I’m just so shocked because I honestly thought people were safe to walk where they want, especially in broad daylight, and I hope everyone hears about Ray and takes extra care at interfaces.”
The Duncairn stabbing follows a weekend of sectarian attacks in North Belfast.
Two teenagers were attacked by a gang from the Tiger’s Bay area on Saturday night near Yorkgate, while several nationalist residents’ cars in Henderson Avenue were damaged by corrosive acid on Monday night.
A man walking his dog along the Whitewell Road early on Monday evening was attacked by a carload of men close to the entrance of the White City estate.
Two cars in Mountainview Park were also damaged on Monday after missiles rained over the peacewall.
Condemning the attacks, North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly called on the community to “unite” against the “shocking” interface violence.
Appealing directly to unionism to condemn the attacks, Mr Kelly said strong leadership on the ground was the only way forward.
“There are serious concerns about the increase in sectarian attacks in the area over the weekend and I want to express my disgust at what happened,” he said.
“One man is lucky to be alive while two teenagers were attacked and various other incidents occurred.
“North Belfast’s MLAs have united in their condemnation of interface violence and I would call on the community to unite against it too.”