Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th November 2023 Detectives are appealing for information following an arson attack at a vacant property in the Weaver’s Grange area of Newtownards late last night, Thursday 23rd November. Detective Sergeant Bell said: “Just after 11.45pm, we received a report of a vehicle and house on fire. “Officers attended the scene and those in neighbouring properties had to be evacuated from their homes while colleagues from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service extinguished the blaze. “At this stage, we believe that the vehicle was deliberately driven into the side of the property, before being set alight. Extensive damage was caused to the front of the property, and the vehicle was completely destroyed. Picture by PressEye

AN arson attack in Newtownards last week is being linked to the recent Loyalist drug gang feud.

In the early hours of Thursday morning a car was driven up to a house in Weavers Grange before being set on fire, causing significant damage to a vacant house, until recently occupied by members of one of the drug gangs.

Newtownards councillor, Steven Irvine, has labelled those who carried out the attack as ‘selfish, thoughtless people’ and said the attack was the latest in the Weavers Grange area which he said has been ‘under seige’ for years.

Residents had to be evacuated from their homes just before midnight after the alarm was raised that a car and a vacant house were ablaze.

The house sustained considerable damage in the attack and the car was destroyed.

Police have condemned those behind the ‘reckless attack’ and said there could have been much more serious consequences.

It is understood that while exploring all lines of equiry, officers have not ruled out a link between the arson and the ongoing feud in the town.

Detective Sergeant Bell said at this stage they believe that the vehicle was deliberately driven into the side of the property, before being set alight.

“Extensive damage was caused to the front of the property, and the vehicle was completely destroyed,” he added.

Police said the distressing incident could have caused ‘serious consequences’. 

“This was a completely reckless attack which could have had serious consequences,” said sergeant bell. “Thankfully, no injuries have been reported at this stage though this was obviously distressing for the local community, particularly young children who had to be woken from their beds and brought outside.

“We are following a number of lines of enquiry and I would appeal to anyone who may have seen anyone suspicious in the area at the time of the fire or to anyone who may have dash-cam or CCTV footage that could assist with enquiries, to contact detectives on 101 quoting reference 1930 of 23/11/23.”

Councillor Irvine said he ‘totally and utterly’ condemned the ‘mindless attack.’

“It is widely believed that criminals evicted from the area via a proper legal process decided to inflict one final act of terror against the community they have tortured for years,” said Mr Irvine.

“These thugs have no regards for the innocent neighbours and young residents,” he added, and urged anyone with camera or doorbell footage to forward it to the police or himself.

“After this house becoming available at the start of the week, now extensive work at a huge cost has to be completed before a new tenant or family can get housed in this area,” said Mr Irvine.

Strangford MP, Jim Shannon, has also condemned the attack which he said shows there are still tensions ‘under the surface’.

It is vital that as we approach the Christmas and holiday period, that residents feel safe within their local community,” he said.

“I would encourage any member of the general public who has any information on this attack to contact the PSNI urgently to aid them in their investigation.

“At a time of year where there is so much joy within the local community, we must ensure nobody is made to feel intimidated within the area they live and that all efforts are made to ensure Christmas can be celebrated peacefully within the town,” said the MP.