A Catholic mother and her three children have been forced to flee their home after sectarians tried to set the family home ablaze.
The latest in a series of attacks against Janette Nelson (38) occurred this past Saturday, when accelerant was poured through the letterbox of the family home in Newtownards, Co. Down and ignited at around 7:20pm on Saturday evening.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the single mother was at home at the time of the attack and she managed to put the fire out. The Down resident has lived in the neighborhood for six years with her children Bryanny (12), Zofi (7), and two-year-old Eli.
Her sister Lizzie McInerney said Nelson had been getting ready for a night out before the attack.
“I came down to get her and she said that the smoke alarm was going off and she realized the door was going up in flames,” said McInerney.
This is the second arson attack in recent weeks. Last week Nelson’s children had to be rescued from an upstairs window after a fire was started at the front door late at night. Prior to this, sectarian graffiti was scrawled on the walls and windows of the house.
As a result of the attacks, McInerney said her sister had decided to leave the neighborhood.
“Janette had already decided to move out ... She was hoping it would all die down and they would catch whoever was doing it.
“Janette’s in bits and has been since it first happened. The girls have been having night terrors and their teacher said they have gone really quiet in school.”
Investigators are treating the criminal damage as hate crimes and have appealed for witnesses to come forward.
One neighbor dismissed the attacks as anti-social behavior.
“We can’t see any other reason for it. Her kids are great and they are all great neighbours who never bother anybody,” the neighbor told the Belfast Telegraph.
Alliance Party Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy said: “I am disgusted that this family has been targeted for the fourth time. I cannot comprehend why somebody would want to target a family in this way. I am just thankful that this fire was put out quickly, otherwise lives may have been lost.”
Last week investigators questioned a 32-year-old woman regarding one of the earlier attacks. She was released pending further investigations.