10 February 2000 Edition

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RUC assault couple at gunpoint

A North Belfast couple told An Phoblacht they feared for their lives when the RUC rammed their car and dragged them out of the vehicle at gunpoint.

Joe Chapman and Lucille Larkin, both in their 20s, believe they would have been killed in the incident had it not been for local people who came out of their homes.

``The RUC rammed our car and they dragged us out at gunpoint. Every one of them had their guns out and pointed them at us. They smashed in every window in the car and were shouting and telling us not to move. It was really frightening,'' said Lucille.

The nightmare began when the couple were travelling home at 3am on Tuesday morning, 8 February. As they turned into Brompton Park in Ardoyne, a car began following them and flashing its lights. The couple drove on, as they had no idea who was in the car. At Oldpark Road, two RUC jeeps parked at the post office pulled out and followed Joe and Lucille until Joe slowed down at Rosapenna Street to let Lucille out.

Joe takes up the story: ``As I slowed up, one of the jeeps rammed the side of the car, the other hit the other side and all the peelers jumped out with guns drawn. They put guns to our heads and ordered us out. They were shouting, telling us not to move our hands, and two of them jumped onto the bonnet of the car and kicked in the windscreen.

``An RUC man then dragged Lucille from the car by the hair through the broken passenger window and threw her down, hitting her head off the ground''.

Joe was then dragged from the car, also through the window, at gunpoint, and was beaten and forced to the ground, where he had his hands cuffed behind his back.

He was then dragged by the handcuffs and thrown into an RUC vehicle - he was so dazed by the assault that he is not sure if it was a car or a jeep - and taken to Antrim Road RUC barracks, where he was held until the morning.

At this stage, there were five RUC jeeps and at least two cars present. According to local people, every one of the RUC members present had their gun drawn and pointed them at people who came onto the street or looked out a window.

Lucille was arrested at the scene and put into a car but was inexplicably let go within minutes.

The RUC explained their actions to Joe's mother, who went to the barracks, by accusing him of driving a stolen car. When he was released from Antrim Road barracks they asked him to produce his MOT (vehicle test) certificate.

``This is hardly justification for putting this couple through such a terrifying ordeal'', said Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly. ``This violent and threatening behaviour is typical of the RUC. It's a disgrace.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1