“I am grateful today we are not looking at a sectarian murder”

A top police officer as appealed for calm revealing he is grateful not to be dealing with a ‘sectarian murder’.

As tensions spike in north Armagh, Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said the PSNI have set up extra patrols ahead in the Portadown and Craigavon area.

Chief Inspector Jon Burrows

Chief Inspector Jon Burrows

It follows a number of incidents including the early lighting of two bonfires in Edenderry and Killicomaine in Portadown, the paint bombing of a Republican memorial in Craigavon and a vicious attack on a man also in Portadown.

Indeed the PSNI described an attack on a man in the Bridge St on Sunday as ‘not far from being lynched’.

Police said: “We warned against speculation, and those who have ignored us have embraced paranoia and Facebook scaremongering. We’ve seen people on social media “named” as being behind it, reported as “fact”.

“We’ve then seen completely different people attacked and not far from lynched.

Craigavon bonfire

Craigavon bonfire

“This is the damage that paranoia, speculation, and weak leadership in certain groups does. On Sunday afternoon around 3.20pm, a car was set upon on Bridge Street in Portadown by a crowd of males.

“One of the mob jumped on the bonnet and windscreen until it smashed.

“The victim was dragged out of the vehicle and kicked repeatedly around the head and body.

“Today, we could have been dealing with a murder. Worse still, in the back of the car was a two month old baby.

“The injuries of this horrendous attack are serious but non life threatening.”

Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said in a video on the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page: “There have been a number of sectarian attacks in recent days in Craigavon and Portadown areas. These are entirely unacceptable.

“We have seen a bonfire set alight early and a Republican memorial attacked and yesterday (Sunday) afternoon a man dragged from his car in Bridge St in Portadown and subjected to a terrible assault by seven cowards in what was clearly a sectarian motivated assault.

“These are unacceptable and will be thoroughly investigated.

“I want to reassure you in the community that we are doing everything we can to keep the peace, ensure we have good relations and we have a peaceful summer and we are working with communities and partners to do that.

“We have set up extra patrols which are going to run for as long as we need them in order to keep you safe.

“Let me just draw attention to that assault in Bridge St in Portadown. A man was dragged out of his car at Bridge St at 3.30pm in the afternoon. He was set upon by seven other males who punched and kicked him repeatedly.

“They damaged his car and inside his car was a two month old baby who could have been injured.

“I am greatful today that we are not looking at a sectarian murder.

“The stakes could be high whenever the tension rises and people act irresponsibly.

“I’m calling on everyone to keep cool heads, for parents to excerise influence and those with influence in communities to use it for good purposes.”

On the PSNI Craigavon page, they stated: “Car attacked with two month old baby inside. That is where we’ve got to.

“On Friday, we asked for calm heads and strong leadership from within communities in the wake of a bonfire lighting early. We warned of the repercussions and whilst some have stepped forward and showed great leadership, in other quarters we have been flatly ignored.

“Since then, we have seen a Republican memorial attacked, another attempt at lighting a bonfire, but far more worryingly, this attack.

“This must stop. One punch can kill. Lives can be destroyed. People can end up in prison for a long time.”

If you know anything about these attacks, contact us on 101, send us a private message, or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111. The reference number is 1114 of 01/07/18.