County Antrim: Bushmills 'left in shock' after man nailed to fence

Close-up of fence with two bits cut out of the top
The PSNI said a man has been left with potentially life-changing injuries after he was nailed to a fence [BBC]

People in Bushmills have been "left in shock" following a serious assault in which a man was left nailed to a fence, an assembly member has said.

A man was taken to hospital following the incident in a car park in the County Antrim town in the early hours of Sunday.

The man in his 20s was found with a nail through each hand at a fence.

UUP leader Doug Beattie said the attack had "all the hallmarks" of being carried out by loyalist paramilitaries.

Police said paramilitary involvement was one key line of inquiry.

Two vans, one belonging to the injured man, were found on fire in the car park near Dundarave Park.

Graffiti on nearby public toilets has been linked to the assault and arson.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the man was left with potentially life-changing but not life-threatening injuries.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton told BBC News NI it was a "really shocking incident with levels of, almost, ultra violence".

Doug Beattie
"Without a shadow of a doubt this has all the hallmarks of being loyalist paramilitaries," says UUP leader Doug Beattie [Getty Images]

Bushmills attack 'designed to instil fear'

Speaking to BBC's Evening Extra programme, Mr Beattie described it as "appalling and absolutely barbaric".

He called for a stronger, multi-agency response to so-called paramilitary attacks.

"They are criminals and they need to be treated as such and I think we give them a little bit too much credibility because we don't have a better way of explaining them," the UUP leader said.

Such attacks are "designed to instil fear into communities", making it difficult for people to challenge those responsible, he added.

"[The] only way to challenge that is to use everything available to us - MI5, NCA, PSNI, HMRC - everything working together to dismantle these people… to make sure that we put them away and we put them away for a long time," he said.

Mr Beattie said agencies "need to really look at this from top to bottom" and criticised the use of segregated prison regimes in Northern Ireland.

"They go into prison and they come out with their title of brigadier and some sort of kudos within communities - that all has to end," he added.

'Ripple effects'

Alliance MLA Sian Mullholland described the attack as "absolutely uncalled for and unjustifiable".

She said that there was "no place for vigilantism", adding this was "something that shouldn't be happening in 2024 in our society".

"If people do have concerns, the police and the justice system as the only route that we have to follow - otherwise we're in the wild west," Ms Mulholland told BBC News NI.

She added the "ripple effects" of the "barbaric" attack would be felt beyond the victim, by the community in Bushmills, the emergency services who responded to the incident, and tourists staying in campervans in the car park during the attack.

DUP MLA Paul Frew said: "This criminal and violent behaviour cannot be tolerated in a peaceful community and has to be condemned."

TUV leader Jim Allister expressed his "dismay at the gruesome and cruel attack".