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Slashing victim is popular local cop

By Staff Reporter

THE POLICE officer slashed with a Stanley knife on New Year’s Day is a well-known neighbourhood sergeant in the area who was investigating an alleged assault when he was attacked.

Sergeant Craig McDowell, who received the overall award in the Protective Policing Service category at the Policing With The Community Awards in October, had entered the Sportsman Bar on the Crumlin Road at around 3pm to investigate an alleged altercation between a youth and a crowd at Twaddell Avenue after an attempt to vandalise banners.

It’s alleged Sergeant McDowell was attacked with a Stanley knife by the youth and while trying to defend himself received a cut to this face. Bar staff and customers provided assistance until more police arrived. A 16-year-old male was apprehended.

Holy Cross Rector Fr Gary Donegan said that he had received a series of phone calls asking about the wellbeing of Sergeant McDowell. He said it showed why it was necessary for himself and others in the community to maintain a presence at the junction on almost nightly basis.

“I had quite a few local people enquiring about his condition because he didn’t get the award that he got for nothing,” said Fr Donegan.

“This is the reason we walk these streets. It is 175 nights or something and we have been there for 160 of those nights. People wonder what are we doing there, but we are there to prevent what happened last night.”

A local community worker added that residents’ groups and those in the local bars and clubs hold Sergeant McDowell in “very high regard”.

A taxi driver who witnessed the altercation which Sergeant McDowell was investigating told the North Belfast News he had stopped to try and get a youth into his taxi after witnessing him “pulling posters off the wall” at the Twaddell camp, but another driver stopped and started attacking the male.

“A driver pulled up beside me, jumped out, ran over and started punching the boy on the back of the head,” he said. “I drove round to the Sportsman and at this time people outside the bar ran over because the wee man was lying on the ground and three or four were kicking him while he was on the ground.”

The taxi driver said he waited almost 30 minutes before police arrived and added he had reported the driver. The 16-year-old was arrested for wounding with intent and possession of an offensive weapon. He remains in custody assisting police with their enquiries in connection with the assault and the attempt to damage banners.

Sergeant McDowell was treated for injuries to his face before being released on Thursday.

There are fears locally that attacks on banners and posters at the Twaddell camp have become a ‘dare’ activity for local youngsters.

Last week banners at the camp were removed after being slashed several times in a late-night attack. Loyalists have blamed “republicans from Ardoyne” for the vandalism of the banners.

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