Wednesday 28 September 2016

Gunmen shoot at cleaners' van and threaten hotel staff

Peter Johnson

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

A PSNI officer at the Carlton Hotel, Belleek, Co Fermanagh, where the shooting took place
A PSNI officer at the Carlton Hotel, Belleek, Co Fermanagh, where the shooting took place

Police are investigating after four armed and masked men threatened staff at a hotel in the Co Fermanagh border village of Belleek.

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The men jumped out of a dark-coloured vehicle, entered the Carlton Hotel and threatened a staff member around 9.15am yesterday. A shot was fired at a cleaning van parked directly outside the hotel.

A bullet hole in the van which was attacked by the gunmen
A bullet hole in the van which was attacked by the gunmen

The hotel was planning to reopen at Christmas after being closed for almost three-and-a-half years and a cleaning company had been working on it for the past few days.

Local sources said the masked men were armed with a rifle and a small machine gun.

A vehicle was later found burned out about two miles from the village.

A large contingent of police arrived at the scene to seal off the area, which is only 60 metres from the Donegal border.

The attack comes within two weeks of new owner Sam Morrison announcing that he was hoping to re-open the hotel for business.

The three-star, 35-bedroom hotel was bought for £300,000 (¤355,000) in March 2013, when it was expected to re-open for the G8 summit in Fermanagh.

It is a prominent landmark on the banks of the River Erne and once employed 25 people.

Mr Morrison is the owner of Corbo, one of Northern Ireland's largest property firms. The hotel recently advertised a number of positions.

PSNI detectives said the armed men arrived before 9.30am and threatened staff.

"They fired one shot into the van of a contractor who was working there," Detective Inspector Trevor Stevenson said.

"There was no one in the van at the time and no one sustained any injuries during the incident. The men made off in a black Ford Escort in the direction of the Border.

"A car matching the description was discovered on fire a short time later in the Derrynacross Road area of Garrison. Officers are continuing to work closely with An Garda Síochána to trace their movements."

Local Belleek SDLP councillor John Coyle strongly condemned yesterday morning's gun attack.

Machine gun

"Firearms have no place in our society and this is totally unacceptable," he said.

"Belleek is my home village and, along with many others, I have been working to make sure that it is seen as a warm, welcoming and vibrant village and a safe place to come to.

"Yesterday's act is an attempt to undo all this good work but we will not be deterred."

Irish Independent

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