Woman bailed over Co Down arson

Published Friday, 12 October 2012
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A 32-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of intimidation has been released on police bail, after a "terrified" mother and her three children escaped a sectarian arson attack on their Newtownards home.

Janette Nelson passed her two-year-old son and daughters, aged seven and 12, through an upstairs window to a neighbour who had climbed up onto an adjoining roof of their burning house in Lenamore Park.

But the bathroom window was too small for her to escape through and she was left trapped until firefighters arrived, as the drama unfolded in the early hours of Friday.

They helped the 38-year-old single mum out of the property.

The Catholic family were left badly shaken but not hurt by the ordeal - which is the third in a series of attacks on their home and is being treated by police as sectarian arson.

Ms Nelson told UTV she was "terrified" as the thick, black smoke filled the property and said that if her smoke alarm hadn't worked, her and her children could have been killed.

"I was absolutely terrified and so were my children," she explained.

"I still am terrified. If it hadn't been for the smoke alarm myself and my children wouldn't be here now because the black smoke was coming up the stairs and I was choking."

Janette described waking up her young kids and bringing them to the bathroom at the back of the house, before phoning police and a neighbour for help.

I rang my neighbour William who lives next door and he came and climbed up the fence and helped my children out before the big black smoke came.

Janette Nelson

She said: "I was in bed and just jumped up. When I came out to the landing I felt this immense heat coming up the stairs and saw the front door was all in flames.

"I lifted my son, who is only two, and a phone. Then I went into the girls' room. I got them into the bathroom and called the police.

"I couldn't get out the window but minutes later the firefighters were there and I just remember being taken out and not much after that."

Fire crews from Newtownards and Bangor were called to the scene at around 2am to deal with the blaze, which they said was started deliberately.

It is understood something had been put through their letterbox and set alight.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus went into the house and brought Mrs Wilson out before extinguishing the fire using a hosereel jet.

NIFRS Area Commander John Denvir said there could have been four fatalities.

"The alarm saved lives of the four people in that house," he told UTV.

"The fire was still burning in the hallway as fire crews forced entry. It produced lots of smoke. When we found the woman she was upset but still conscious."

Police described the arson attack as "particularly reckless" and praised the actions of all those involved in the rescue, including the local neighbour.

This was a particularly reckless and cowardly attack which could have had more serious consequences that fortunately we have.

CI Michael McDonald, PSNI

Michael McDonald from the PSNI said: "The presence of smoke alarms in the house undoubtedly gave the family the advanced warning they needed to allow them move away from the seat of the fire and most of the smoke.

"Thankfully the family were uninjured in the fire.

"I am also very proud of the quick reactions of my officers and the neighbour who helped them rescue the children and I would ask other members of the public from neighbouring properties to contact us with any information they may have or if they noticed anyone acting suspiciously in the area, so that we might bring those responsible to justice."

Ms Nelson's house has previously been targeted twice in recent weeks when sectarian graffiti was painted on the walls, windows were smashed and a car was damaged.

She previously told UTV she does not understand why she has been targeted and said she refuses to be forced to leave her home.

The arrested woman was released on police bail on Friday evening pending further inquiries.

Detectives have appealed for anyone with information on the attacks to come forward.

© UTV News
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19 Comments
thomas in east belfast wrote (550 days ago):
this reminds me of my family being burned out of ardone for being protestant all them years ago still happening to each side a sad day hope the family can get over this
Burnsy in Belfast wrote (552 days ago):
A disgusting attack that shames me & the rest of the Protestant community.
Rob in North Down wrote (552 days ago):
Irrespective of who did this, it is a dispicable act. This is a woman and her children who are trying to live their lives. What have the perpetrators achieved? Nothing, apart from unite the community. They should be ashamed of themselves and I hope that they are caught!!!
Secret in Belfast wrote (552 days ago):
Who wud do that to someone if the person has got away with it and reading it shame on u im a prod but no way i wud ever do that to someone no matter what so what shes a catholic wise up
fra in belfast wrote (552 days ago):
i would like to ask the people who did this why ? why would u want to burn a woman and 3 children alive why
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