Northern Ireland

West Belfast house attacked for third time in several weeks

House attacked in the Dermott Hill Parade area
Image caption Police said the fire was started downstairs in the house

Police have said they have not established a definitive motive after a house in west Belfast was attacked for the third time in two weeks.

A fire was reported at the Dermott Hill Parade property at 01:57 GMT on Thursday.

Two fire appliances extinguished the blaze, which is thought to have started downstairs.

Police are treating it as arson and believe it may be linked to criminal damage on New Year's Day.

'End to the fear'

On 20 December, a man dressed in a Santa costume fired several shots through the front window of the house, causing major damage.

Police are also investigating a possible link to a gun attack at a house on the Upper Springfield Road reported to police on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Richmond family told the BBC they were leaving the area after previous attacks.

The PSNI said they were "currently following a number of lines of enquiry".

"However, we have no one definitive motive for this arson attack and I would urge anyone with information about the attack to contact police with any information that could help the investigation and put an end to the fear and distress being caused," Ch Supt Jonathan Roberts said.

"Everyone has a right to live in a safe and stable community and this type of senseless and reckless criminality will not be tolerated.

"I want to reassure the people of west Belfast that we are taking what happened last night very seriously - as well as a number of other incidents in recent weeks which we believe are related."

Police said the house next door was filled with smoke and a number of people who were inside at the time were brought to safety after Thursday morning's arson attack.

The house was also attacked several times between September and Christmas.

Image caption George Richmond said the downstairs of his house has been 'destroyed'.

In the early hours of New Year's Day, George Richmond's daughter's nearby home, off the Upper Springfield Road, had shots fired through the front window.

Mr Richmond said he does not know why his family are being targeted.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood condemned the attacks as "despicable".

"Nobody has the right to attack a family home in such a brutal way," he added.

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