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17 July 2003 Edition

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Arsonists destroy children's playground

Two malicious fires have left children in the New Lodge/Duncairn area of North Belfast without a playground.

The fires, which caused more than £6,000 damage to the Star Neighbourhood Centre, were started by arsonists who returned to torch the centre a second time only days after their first attack. Now, nearly 60 children are without any play area over the summer holidays.

Margaret Valentine, a representative of the centre, says that as a result of the attacks several children's summer schemes have had to be put on hold.

"We are just disgusted at this wanton destruction and would appeal for anyone who knows who is responsible to get in touch with us. The last thing we want is to put up a high fence and make the playground look like a prison."



PSNI member injures former Holy Cross student




A PSNI officer has attacked a young girl who had already been victimised during the Holy Cross dispute, leaving the child bruised and traumatised.

Twelve-year-old Shauna Millen was standing with female friends on Clifton Park Avenue on Tuesday 8 July after a PSNI raid had been carried out on a home nearby. A PSNI man approached the girls and stamped his feet close to them. All of the children ran from the man except Shauna.

"I didn't run because I knew I had done nothing wrong," said a shaken Shauna, "but then he grabbed me by my arms from behind really hard and pulled my head back.

"By this stage people were trying to get me away from him, but it was terrible. I was crying and shaking all over and I thought I was going to die. I thought I was never going to see my mummy again."

A resident who witnessed the attack said it was "an absolute disgrace".

Shauna, who had until recently attended Holy Cross Primary School, was one of hundreds of young girls targeted by unionist paramilitaries during a dispute at the school two years ago when children to walk through a "corridor of hate" to reach their classes.

Her mother, Jeanette, took the child to the Mater hospital after the incident.

"Apart from the bruises, the hospital said she had a sprained neck and that lumps of her hair were missing. She really was in a terrible state," said Jeanette.

"She had to go through the Holy Cross dispute and now this has happened. It's a nightmare. I really can't believe it. My little girl is just twelve years old. How could a policeman manhandle her like that and leave bruises all over her arms?"

The PSNI man's badge number was reported to the Police Ombudsman and the office has confirmed that an investigation into the incident is underway.
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