16 April 2006

Hammer gang tried to kill me

Stephen Breen
16 April 2006

A west Belfast teenager escaped death after he was brutally attacked by a gang of hammer-wielding thugs in the early hours of yesterday.

Terrified Jim Reynolds (16), from Ballymurphy Road, told us he was targeted by five men and two women who he can identify.

Jim believes he was attacked because he witnessed the murder of Ballymurphy father-of-six Gerard Devlin in February.

Said Jim: "They were trying to kill me. I know who they are and I have passed all their names to the police.

"I can hardly walk but I wanted to come out of hospital because I didn't want my mummy being on her own.

"I was very lucky to have escaped and I just curled up in a ball when they started hitting me. I probably wouldn't have been able to get away if they hadn't have tried to get upstairs," he said.

"They are animals and they just want me dead because I am a witness and because I am friends with the Devlin family."

The gang smashed their way into Jim's home in the early hours of Saturday morning and attacked him with hammers as he lay sleeping on the settee.

He suffered two sprained ankles, cuts to his arms and severe bruising to his knees.

But as some of the gang raced upstairs to attack Jim's mother, Margaret and her other children, the teenager punched one of the men and managed to escape.

And even as Sunday Life was interviewing the young man, members of the gang were taunting the assault victim outside his home.

The teenager's mum has vowed to move from the area, following the attack on her son.

She said: "That's some Easter present my family received but it is just the latest in a series of attacks against my family.

"I will never forget the screams of my son to help him and I honestly thought he was dead. They even threatened to gut my ten-year-old daughter," she added.

"This whole thing has to end because I'm at my wits end. I have lived here for 15 years but I'm now going to leave the area because I can't take anymore."

Four people - three men in their twenties and a woman in her thirties - were arrested in connection with the assault, police revealed last night.

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