A member of the PSNI police left a loaded gun, ammunition and deadly CS gas lying on a nine-year-old girl’s bed following a raid on her family’s north Belfast home.
The items lay in the child’s bedroom for almost 30 minutes before a PSNI patrol returned to the house to retrieve them.
The incident happened after the PSNI arrested Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) election agent Eddie Campbell shortly after 9.30am on Tuesday. They searched his Ardoyne home, removing several items.
Mr Campbell’s wife Angela said the PSNI had endangered her children’s lives. She also said she was forced to beg officers not to remove a laptop that contained her eldest son’s schoolwork.
Shortly after 1pm, while the raid was ongoing, the mother-of-four went to collect her younger children from school, leaving another IRSP member Paul Little in her home with the PSNI.
Mr Little said that a short time later they PSNI told him they had finished their search.
Mrs Campbell said two officers returned 30 minutes later to say they had “forgotten something” and went upstairs to retrieve the gun.
“I am absolutely livid. My house has been turned upside down and a gun left in my children’s bedroom,” Mrs Campbell said.
“My younger girls are just five and nine years old. What would have happened had they picked that gun up?
“One of them could be dead now because of this.
“I’ll be complaining to the police ombudsman and I want a full apology for what my family has been put through.”
Mr Little said when the PSNI returned to retrieve the weapon they refused to explain why but insisted they needed to go upstairs.
“I asked several times what they had left behind and they refused to answer,” he said.
“I thought it was a strange request but said they could come back in and I was going upstairs with them, just to check there was nothing untoward.
“When we walked up to the children’s bedroom the gun along with the belt and holster had been just abandoned on the child’s bed.
“They grabbed the gun and couldn’t get out quick enough -- not even apologising for putting a young family at risk.”
The raid on the Campbells’ home was one of several in north Belfast this week on IRSP activists homes in the north of the city by the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group [TSG].
Mr Little condemned the raids.
“This latest series of raids could quite literally have resulted in tragedy for Mr Campbell’s family,” he said. There had not been “a word of apology” for the grave danger they had caused, he added.
He said the raids were just the latest in an increase in harassment of IRSP members in Belfast by the PSNI.
“The TSG raiding parties took away IRSP literature, posters and party leaflets which in no way can be classed as even vaguely ‘threatening’ or illegal.
“The PSNI are just the RUC under a different title and are still engaged in widespread political policing and the harassment of IRSP activists. Not only did they engage in blatant harassment of IRSP members today but by their actions in leaving behind a loaded gun in a child’s bedroom, they engaged in gross misconduct.”
Elsewhere, a pipe bomb was discovered on Tuesday close to the family home of a member of the PSNI in Derry. It is the second time in three years the property, which belongs to the PSNI man’s parents and is in the nationalist Shantallow area, has been targeted in this manner.
No organisation has claimed responsibility for the device. The incident was condemned by Sinn Féin councillor Tony Hassan said it could have had “devastating results”.