Stabbing hoax knocks confidence in police

POLICE in Ballymoney are investigating a hoax call that a stabbing had taken place at a house in Glebeside early in February.

The fake incident lead to an ambulance and police car being deployed and the front door of a property in the estate being forced open by officers.

The issue was raised during a recent District Policing Partnership meeting after Iain McAfee questioned police procedure adding: "This incident has killed any confidence the Glebe community had in the local police'.

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Explaining the 'on-the-street' version of the incident, Mr McAfee said: "There seems to be a conflict in what the local people are saying and what the police say.

"I understand rumours spread but the Glebe needs to gain confidence in the police and all this has done is made them look heavy handed. We are trying to build barriers here not break them down.

"All we hear is that police smashed down the door of a property in the early hours where the innocent residents were sleeping. Once officers were satisfied that there was no fatal stabbing they simply apologised to them and left.

"Does the PSNI realise the potential damage this incident has done to the hard work undertaken in recent years in terms of building up relationships between the local Glebeside community and the Community Beat Officers?"

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In response Inspector David Anderson said: "I understand your concern and the incident is under investigation. The Ambulance Service received a report of a stabbing at a specific address and informed police who also attended.

"After seven minutes of knocking on the door and trying to telephone the occupants, police forced the door. They believed that someone had been stabbed and a life could have been in danger inside the property. That was our primary concern.

"Once assured by the occupants that they were fine, police explained the nature of the call and the reason for forcing entry. On making enquiries they went to another nearby address however all was fine there and it was concluded that the call was a hoax."

Expressing concerns Cllr Malachy McCamphill asked: "Who pays for the door that was damaged?" Cllr Anita Cavlan also joined the debate stating: "I'm not happy with this, the police should have given more of an apology to these people at least."

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Inspector Anderson said: "We will be happy to call again with the residents and ensure that they understand the circumstances, however the responsibility for disrupting them in the early hours lies with whoever made the hoax call. That matter is under investigation."

DPP member Ian Davidson also hit out at officers: "If my door had been broken into by police, I would have expected them to call round the next day and explain. Without that the police have left a void for rumours to escalate out of control."

However disagreeing with the concerns DPP member Joe Donaghy said: "Officers waited seven minutes and tried everything to wake the occupants up.

"I have sympathy with these innocent people but the police weren't to know. As far as they were concerned someone could have been bleeding to death in the property."

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Agreeing DPP member Helen McKeown concluded: "We are looking at this case with the benefit of hindsight. Officers were to know it was a hoax call."

Inspector Anderson later confirmed that police officers have since revisited the householders concerned to ensure they understand why police had called in the early hours.

"It is regrettable that we had to disturb these people during the night, however the primary duty of police is to protect the community and preserve life," he added.

"An ambulance crew and police officers were diverted by a hoax call and that could have had tragic consequences for other members of the community who really did need the emergency services. If anyone can assist our investigation into who made this call I would ask them to contact Ballymoney PSNI station on 0845 6008000."

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