Northern Ireland

Student tells of terror during Belfast car hijacking

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Media caption'I physically felt suffocated'

A medical student has spoken of his terror when he was "ripped from his car" in a hijacking.

Daniel Napier, 19, from County Down, was taking a friend out for a drive on Saturday when the hijackers struck at Purdysburn Road in south Belfast.

He said he was "the most scared he had ever felt" during the attack.

"They reached in and ripped me out of the car. They pinned me up against the car," he said.

"I was in a vice-like grip and I felt under so much pressure."

Mr Napier said one of the men punched him in the face and threatened to shoot him if he did not hand over his keys and valuables.

Two men fled in his Renault Clio car, which was later set on fire in Beechmount Avenue in west Belfast shortly before 12:25 BST.

PSNI statistics show there were 43 personal hijackings and 10 business hijackings in Northern Ireland in 2018/19 - one a week on average.

Image caption The student had his shirt torn off by the hijackers after he was pulled from his car

Detectives have appealed for witnesses following the hijacking, which is one of a series of incidents across Northern Ireland, which they believe are linked.

Mr Napier said he realised there was a disturbance on the road ahead of him when another motorist beeped his horn and signalled to him to do a u-turn.

But he did not realise the threat he was under.

"I flicked the indicator on and suddenly the two boys were on my car. They were running at me like bulls," he said.

"I was trying to get the lock pressed, but I couldn't get it in time."

Image copyright Councillor Ciaran Beattie
Image caption Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service putting out the car fire in west Belfast

Mr Napier said he tried to hold the door closed, but was overpowered by one of the men, who pulled it open.

He added that he managed to free himself when the hijackers tore his T-shirt off, but he didn't run away because he didn't know where his friend was.

"The keys fell out of my hand when he punched me in the face. My nose and lips were bleeding. I was physically stunned," he said.

"I never thought of keeping my doors locked when driving.

"I thought if there was a threat, I would have time to lock my doors, but this happened like lightning."

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The burnt-out Renault Clio in Beechmount Avenue

Mr Napier said he lost his car, mobile phone, passport and football kit in the hijacking.

Police said they received reports of hijackings and assaults in the Newcastle, Lisburn, Carryduff and west Belfast areas on Saturday.

They have appealed for information from anyone who was travelling on the Newcastle Road in Dundrum close to the 12 Arches; the Old Ballynahinch Road in Lisburn; the Saintfield Road area of Belfast close to Ivanhoe Hotel; the Purdysburn Road; and the Boucher Road and Beechmount areas of Belfast on Saturday.

A 30-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of hijacking and a number of other offences.

He has been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

A 31-year-old man arrested on Tuesday has also been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Hijacking - How to protect yourself

The police issued the following safety advice:

• Keep doors locked and handbags and valuables out of view.

• Never pick up hitchhikers. Only give lifts to people you know well.

• Do not stop if someone tries to flag you down.

• If you need air, only wind your window down a little so nobody can reach in while you are stopped in traffic.

• Keep your mobile phone out of sight and do not use it while driving.

• Avoid eye contact with aggressive or suspicious drivers.

• If you are forced to stop, keep your engine running and make sure you have enough room to drive away.