The man targeted by petrol bombers in a house in Derry’s Waterside on Friday night was set alight by the bomb which was thrown through the downstairs window of the property in Benvarden Avenue.
Police said the incident took place shortly after 11pm when it’s believed two male youths smashed the window of the house and threw a lit petrol bomb into it. The two petrol bombers have been described as wearing grey hooded tops with scarves over their faces. Police believe they made off in the direction of nearby Dervock Place.
Speaking last night as investigations continued into the horrific attack, Foyle PSNI Area Commander Jon Burrows said the 45-year-old victim sustained 35 per cent burns to his body and was in a “very serious” condition after undergoing emergency surgery.
Inspector Burrows told the ‘Sunday Journal’: “This was an exceptionally nasty attack and if it wasn’t for the bravery of residents in this area, we’d be dealing with a murder investigation today. It was a targeted attack and the people behind it knew exactly what they were doing. They broke the window and threw this petrol bomb in. It hit the occupant of the house, who was set alight.
“Those who tried to help the man in question undoubtedly saved his life but I can confirm that it was far from a lucky escape. The victim sustained very serious injuries and has already undergone two bouts of surgery for those injuries.”
The local police chief said investigations would be centred on the local community in the coming days.
He said: “This was a very targeted, deliberate attack and these people knew their way around the area. The answers to both the motivation for this crime and those who carried it out lie within the local community. These people knew the area, they knew were they were going and how to make their escape.
“We’re now appealing to anyone in the area who may have seen or heard anything to come forward to the PSNI or the independent charity Crimestoppers with information. There can be no motivation or justification for an attack of this nature and in the coming days we’ll have our most senior detectives working on this case. In Northern Ireland, there’s often a complacency around the issue of petrol bombs but this case in particular highlights the fact that they are potentially lethal,” he added.
SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver who lives in the area was on the scene on Friday minutes after the attack as locals rescued the victim.
“I was returning home from the city centre and at that point we saw smoke billowing from the house and a number of residents outside. By that stage two of the locals had gone in to try and help the man and it was clear when he was brought out of the house that he’d been seriously hurt.”
Colr. Diver said those responsible had set out to kill and that, in doing so in a built up area, they had endangered the lives of others.
“This was attempted murder on the streets of the Waterside. Residents advised me me that they saw several masked men armed with baseball bats and petrol bombs. These masked men appeared on our streets to terrorise and set out to kill. I am completely disgusted that such attacks are still going on in the city and my sympathies are with the victim. We pray that he makes a full recovery from his injuries.
“Benvarden Avenue is a row of terraced houses, this incident could have been much more serious. As a fire in one property could have easily spread to the adjacent properties on the street. Petrol bombs are lethal weapons. If it hadn’t been for the swift actions of this gentleman’s neighbours, we could have dealing with a tragedy today.
“I urge anyone who may have any information relating to this incident to come forward to local PSNI without delay. Masked men have no place in this community. I would appeal to the local community to send out a clear message to those responsible that they have absolutely no support. This type of vigilante action is not welcome in Derry,” he added.
Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact CID in Strand Road Police Station on 0845 600 8000. Or if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.