‘We are committed to apprehending the perpetrators of these crimes’

Police cordoned off roads around Sacred Heart Church on Friday morning following the discovery of two pipe bomb-type devices.
Police cordoned off roads around Sacred Heart Church on Friday morning following the discovery of two pipe bomb-type devices.

NEWTOWNABBEY’S most senior police officer has given an assurance that he and his officers are “working tirelessly” in a bid to bring those responsible for attacks on Catholic churches in Ballyclare and Whitehouse to justice.

Chief Inspector Stephen Reid spoke out following a pipe bomb attack at Church of The Sacred Heart in Ballyclare on February 1, and a security alert at St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church on the Shore Road the following evening.

Army Technical Officers (ATO) were called to Church of The Sacred Heart on the Doagh Road on Friday morning after two pipe bomb-type devices were discovered at the building. The church and a number of nearby homes had to be evacuated while the “viable devices” were made safe.

Parish Priest Fr Eugene O’Hagan, who was forced to cancel a Mass involving a local primary school, said the incident was “disrupting and disappointing”.

On Saturday evening ATO were called to St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church following the discovery of a suspicious object. The Shore Road was closed for a time while a controlled explosion was carried out. The incident was declared a hoax.

Parish Priest Fr Anthony Alexander had to cancel Saturday evening Mass because of the alert. He said that people had been left “sad and upset” by the disruption.

Chief Inspector Reid said that no arrests have yet been made in relation to either incident, but stressed that investigations are at an early stage and that all lines of enquiry remain open.

“Police are putting considerable resources into both apprehending the perpetrators of these crimes and preventing further attacks,” he told the Times. “Dedicated targeted patrols have been implemented throughout the district and crime prevention advice given as appropriate. A number of forensic exhibits have been seized from the respective scenes and are currently under examination.

“Police are working tirelessly to put the people responsible for these crimes before the courts and call upon all members of the community to work with them to achieve this.”

He appealed to anyone with information about either incident to report it to investigating officers at Newtownabbey Station on 0845 600 8000, or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.