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Those behind intimidation ordered to leave in May: HE

‘Problem’ tenants force another family to flee

By Gráinne Brinkley

A SECOND family has been forced to flee their home to escape rising levels of intimidation and harassment from an alleged problem family in the Lagmore area.

Michelle Larkin, her partner and their three children left their Altan Gardens home this week for emergency temporary accommodation elsewhere after suffering what they describe as two-and-a-half years of anti-social and threatening behaviour.

In the June 23 edition of the Andersonstown News, we reported how the Blake family had left Altan Gardens after 17 years to set up a new life in Scotland after they were also targeted in years of abuse and intimidation.

The family at the centre of the alleged anti-social behaviour were ordered in May to vacate their Housing Executive home within an eight-week period after a court order was obtained against them.  However, three months on, the family has yet to be leave the property.

Speaking as she was packing to leave her home of 17 years to move to temporary accommodation, Michelle said her family suffered a catalogue of alleged incidents at the hands of the family and friends of the family coming in from other areas.

“They’ve attacked my home, they’ve tortured my nine-year-old son, they’ve verbally abused and squared up to me and my family – we’ve just had enough,” said Michelle.

“They were supposed to be evicted by July 7 but they’re still there. The last incident happened last week while we were on holiday in Wales. I got a phone call to tell me that our fence had been ripped off and that the gas box had been busted. After they broke down the fence they came into our back, sliced the children’s swings and broke all the garden ornaments. That’s what we came home from holiday to find. A neighbour put up a makeshift fence for me but the gas had to be turned off as there might have been a leakage.

“We can’t sleep at night as you are worried about what they are going to do to your home. It’s just gone on way too long, for two and a half years, so we felt we had no other choice but to leave.”

The issue has also affected Michelle’s three children.

“My kids are staying with either friends or relatives as they are not safe here,” she explained. “One is 17 and had to stay with her grandmother so she could get peace to study.  She is convinced she is going to fail her AS-Level exams because of the stress of this.

“My other daughter dances with the Razzle Dazzle dance troupe [who made it to the final of the TV dance competition ‘Got to Dance’ last year] and they abused her in the street about her dancing, calling her names.  My son, who’s aged nine, could not play football in the street as they kept taking the ball off him and calling him names. They told him they would kill his daddy. He’s been having nightmares because of it. One of them actually accused my husband of being a sex offender and told other families to keep their kids away from mine.  That was totally untrue and we phoned the police about it.”

Michelle said she feels the police are doing nothing to help her in her plight.

“Every time you phone them it’s the same old story – ‘There’s nothing we can do,’”she said.

“We have to sit in our homes and just allow this all to happen to us and the police are doing nothing. I’ve called them hundreds of times, so much so that we were accused of being touts as the police were never away from our door.

“I just want to get out of here now. I want my children to feel safe again.”

Local Sinn Féin Councillor David Bell called on the PSNI and the Housing Executive to do more to tackle problem tenants.

“It is completely unacceptable what residents in Altan have had to tolerate because of ongoing anti-community behaviour from a handful of individuals for the past number of years,” he said.

“These intimidating actions have made life unbearable for families in the area. It is vital that the Housing Executive and PSNI take the necessary action against those tenants found to be engaging in such acts of threatening anti-community behaviour. The circumstances in this street have been allowed to exist for far too long and movement is needed from the Housing Executive and other statutory agencies before other families are forced to leave their homes.”

Police have confirmed that they have received “numerous reports of anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and assaults from a number of residents in the Altan Gardens area”.

“There are a number of ongoing investigations into several of these reports, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further,” said a police spokesperson.

“In relation to the complaints made about police, anyone with any concerns about the actions of police should contact the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said it was “continuing to work with the local community and anticipate that this issue will be resolved in the coming weeks”.


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