A vicious attempt to murder Catholic teenagers last Friday was covered up by the North’s police for over three days before details finally emerged.
Eighteen-year-old James Turley was left for dead after a mob of loyalists descended on a group of teenagers working as extras on a film set in the Village area of south Belfast.
Turley, a trainee chef from the nationalist Short Strand area, was assaulted, beaten unconscious, dumped in a wheelie bin and left for dead.
Despite running into a house for help he was again beaten by the mob. He played dead to escape after hearing one of his attackers say: “That’s enough. I think he’s dead.”
Four other teenagers were also attacked. The friends, who were extras on the set, had just filmed a scene when a mob gathered and began making sectarian remarks.
“When we were packing up to go, that’s when they started getting closer,” Mr Turley said. “They just surrounded us.”
He said some of his friends attempted to flee in a car but the mob smashed the windows with their fists, forcing him and two other friends to run.
“I ran into a house,” he said. “I said: ‘Please help me. They’re going to kill me’.”
The man went out to the door as if he was going to help me. But as he tried to escape through the house he heard one of the gang shouting: ‘There’s a Taig [Catholic] in there.’
“They all just came in and started beating me,” he said. “They stamped on my head and everywhere. The woman [the householder] said: ‘Get him out of my garden’ and they dragged me out into the alley.
“They just started beating me again. They put me into a bin and were pushing me somewhere. I didn’t know where I was going.
“I think they realised they couldn’t beat me when I was in the bin. They kicked or pushed it over and dragged me out of it.”
Mr Turley said at one stage he was knocked out, but “I started to come around and I heard them saying: ‘That’s enough. I think he’s dead’.”
The teenager stumbled away as soon as the gang fled and was picked up by a passing motorist who drove him to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Mr Turley said he thought he was going to be killed. “When I got put in the bin I thought that was it,” he said.
A friend of Mr Turley’s who was also working as an extra said he had been standing beside the car when the loyalists attacked it.
“They were kicking it and punching it. They were trying to pull people out of the car windows,” he said. “They were punching me saying ‘There’s another Taig there’ and five or six of them ran at me so I ran and I climbed over a wall.
“I was running about the Village (in south Belfast). I didn’t know my way out of the place, “I didn’t know where I was, I was actually fearing for my life to tell you the truth. It was a scary ordeal.”
The PSNI did not publicly release details of the attack for three days, and only confirmed the incident when Mr Turley’s family came forward.
Mr Turley’s mother Donna told journalists that when she received a phone call about the attack she thought that her son had been killed.
“It’s like deja vu,” she said. “My husband was murdered. That’s what it was like. I can’t remember getting from here to the hospital.
“I was just thinking please, please, just let him hang on for me. I really did think he was dead on me. I’m just glad he’s alive.”
It is not the first time the PSNI has been criticised for not releasing information about sectarian attacks.
In March, the PSNI apologised for not making public details of a loyalist riot at Belfast’s Odyssey entertainment complex. The PSNI were further criticised in July when it emerged that they only released information about a sectarian attack on a Catholic football team. Four players from the north Belfast Crumlin Star team were injured in the attack at the hands of a loyalist mob.
The mayor of Belfast, Sinn Fein councillor Niall O Donnghaile said the victims of the latest attack had been left “deeply traumatised”. He claimed that the sectarian gang was “a minority”.
“We will continue to play our part with everyone in our community to ensure those people are faced down,” he said.
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell condemned the “vicious and brutal” attack, while Alliance councillor Maire Hendron described the attack as “horrific”.
Susan Picken, a producer with Manifesto Films which is making ‘The Good Man’, said the firm would continue to liaise with local loyalists to try to prevent further attacks against its Catholic employees.