A Derry salesman has spoken of his shock after being ordered out of an estate in the Waterside by an armed gang claiming to be from the UDA.
The man was employed by a local firm, on behalf of a national electricity organisation, and had been going door-to-door when he was approached by the gang in Kinsale Park in the Nelson Drive area.
The incident occurred last Monday and the PSNI have confirmed they are investigating a report of a hate crime.
The man said he was left stunned and shaken following the incident, which unfolded between 1.45 pm and 2.00 p.m.
“I had just finished at a row of houses and I was going around the side of a house onto the next row. I saw the group but I didn’t think much about it. “They called me over saying, ‘Come here hi’. I thought they were calling me over to see what the offer was and one of them stuck out his hand and grabbed my I.D. badge and turned around the said, ‘That’s him.’
“They told me to get off the estate and I said I’m just out doing my job and not doing anybody any harm. One of them was wearing a denim jacket and he opened it and I saw what looked like the handle of a revolver.”The man said that his name was obviously that of someone from a nationalist or Catholic background, and he said he was not sure if this was the reason he had been targeted.
The gang told him they were from the UDA and they insisted that he left the area, he claimed.
“They gave me the impression it was down to my name being Irish rather than who I worked for. Or it might have been down to my name being connected to a relative who was a volunteer and who died during the ‘Troubles.’
“I just want others to know there is an issue in that area and to be a bit careful. Ninety nine per cent of the people there are sound enough but it just takes one bad egg. Maybe I just knocked on somebody’s door and they have taken offence to it. They might have noticed my name and made a phone call.
“I think maybe the election had something to do with it. Maybe there was heightened tension around that.
“At the time I was certainly shaken up. It could have ended a lot worse.”
After the incident the man phoned a local councillor and later went to the police station to report the incident.
Waterside Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson said: “This is a shocking incident and something we haven’t seen happening in Derry for many years. People should be able to go about their work without having to face these sinister threats.”
Colr. Jackson added: “There can be no ‘no go’ areas for anyone carrying out a day’s work in our city. I would urge any other worker who has faced similar threats to bring that information forward to the PSNI.”
The man described the three guys who approached him as big, burly men. He said: “Two of them looked like they were in the gym quite a bit and the other one looked just naturally stocky. I looked like a javelin beside them. The youngest would be in his early 30s, another one late 30s/early 40s and the third guy, the guy with the gun, would have been late 40s/ early 50s.”
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police in Strand Road received a report of a hate crime in the Kinsale Park area of Derry on Tuesday, February 28th. If anyone has any further information they can contact police at Strand Road on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 397 28/02/17. Or if prefered, to provide information without giving your details, you can contact the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.”