‘PURE scum’ was how a Cookstown woman described the thugs who drove a car into her back garden, smashing her oil tank and causing more than £70,000 worth of damage.
The 33-year-old, who was too frightened to be named, described how she was forced to flee her Orritor Lane home after the attack last Wednesday morning as the scale of the damage became clear.
While she slept in her bed a car smashed into her fence crashing over a tank spilling 800 litres of oil across her garden and into the foundations of her home.
Though she woke about 4am to an unbelievable smell of oil she didn’t realise what had happened until she got up for work about 6.30am on Wednesday morning.
Tread marks, where a car had driven at speed, were clearly visible in the car park behind Old Town Inn and the police have taken fragments of a vehicle for forensic examination, said the terrified home owner.
“I am lucky I didn’t have the car itself in my house,” she said. “This is my home. I worked hard for everything I have and now I have been told my whole garden has to be lifted and it has run into the foundations of my house,” she said adding that she cannot get back to live at her home until September at the earliest.
“It scared the life out of me to be perfectly honest. It’s not the first time I have been scared in my own house. I live here on my own and now I am out of my house,” she said in tears.
She described how every weekend and often during the week, gangs congregate drinking and hurling abuse at local residents from the car park.
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“They would be standing there full drunk and you would go out the back and they would start shouting abuse at you,” she said adding that they would also urinate against the fences.
An environmental expert called in by the insurance company said the whole area is contaminated and that they may have to dig down at least three feet to the foundations. Also property on either side of the victim is contaminated.
The office worker said she and her dog had been ill since the spillage, blaming the fumes from the oil plus the stress of the traumatic events.
Mark Kelso, Director of Environmental Health at Cookstown District Council described it as a ‘major oil spillage’. The council contacted NI Water because it went into the sewage system. The Water Quality Unit was also contacted.
“Given the volume of oil that has spilled it would appear it has gone into the sub strata of the dwellings there. That is an ongoing concern as it may have an impact on the dwelling over a period of time.
“We are keeping a watching brief because there are three dwellings that are potentially impacted by this.”
“The impact has yet to be determined. The volume of oil that has gone into the sewers and gone into the property is unknown but estimated to be in excess of 700 litres. That is a significant volume of oil.
Chairperson of the Orritor Street Lane and Crescent Residents Association, Ann-Marie McGirr said: “Those boys don’t know the difference between day and night. They obviously don’t have to get up for work in the morning.
“If that had happened during the day, she could have had some of her family here sitting on the table and chairs in the garden. Them boys wouldn’t have cared.”
Police in Cookstown described the incident as a hit and run traffic collision and appealed for information. A spokesperson said: “Sometime between Tuesday 29th March and Wednesday 30th March 2011, it was reported that damage was caused to the rear fence of a house in Orritor Lane. The oil tank was knocked from its concrete base causing the oil to spill over the garden. It is believed at this stage that this was caused by a vehicle.”
Tom Jebb who owns the car park behind Old Town Inn was asked by the Mid Ulster Mail for his reaction to what had happened and the fact that residents had called for a gate to be erected at the entrance to the car park from Orritor Street, He said: “I have no comment to make.”