By David Whelan

VANDALS who set fire to a specially adapted vehicle used to transport a North Belfast toddler with a devastating genetic disease have been branded “heartless” by the little girl’s parents.

14-months-old Caoilte Fitzsimmons had to be transported by ambulance for her first visit home in over seven months, after the car customised for her needs was set alight, just hours before she was getting out.

The Nissan Qashqai was purchased with the help of funds raised by the local community and was customised to fit Caoilte’s specialised car seat. It included a panoramic sunroof for Caoilte to see around her and had not yet been used by the family.

Diagnosed at birth with Type 1 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Caoilte is the only known baby in the north to suffer from the incurable life-limiting disease, which affects just one in 6,000 children.

Having spent most of her life in hospital, Caoilte’s mother Fiona said that they had been looking forward to getting her home for a few hours and taking a drive along the coast.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, just hours after the attack, she said the car had been intended as a lifeline to their daughter.

“She’s home today for a few hours but it meant she had to come home by ambulance,” she said.

“Caoilte has been in hospital since November and the car was the only thing keeping her mobile and letting her see the outside world.

“We’ve only recently got the vehicle to allow her car seat the extra space to recline and the extended sunroof gives her more to look at – she really loves that.

“To her, home was the hospital and nothing existed outside, but with the jeep she was going to be able to see things. She can’t do that now and it’s terrible.”

Two 10 year-old-boys were in Caoilte’s grandfather’s house when the car was set alight in Ballycarry Street in the early hours of Monday (August 11) morning.

Police are investigating and they say they believe the fire was started deliberately, possibly by inflammable liquid being poured on the bonnet.

 

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