Court hears residents used bath water to douse flames on stairs following early morning petrol bomb attack in Ballymena

Ballymena Courthouse

THE occupants of a Ballymena house used bath water to put out a fire on stairs after a petrol bomb attack threatened to cut off their only escape route.

That’s what a police officer told Coleraine Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, on Monday where two men appeared in connection with the attack in the early hours of Sunday in the Fisherwick Gardens area of Ballymena.

The accused are Lucasz Rybski (28) and Norbert Zielinski (26), both of Market Road in Ballymena, who appeared before the court via video link from Antrim PSNI Station where they had the assistance of a Polish interpreter.

They are each jointed charged with arson endangering life with intent in which carpet, walls and paintwork were damaged; criminal damage; throwing a petrol bomb and possession of a petrol bomb on November 15.

A police officer said he believed he could connect the men to the charges and opposed bail.

He said police were in the Fisherwick area around 4.30am in relation to an unrelated matter when officers heard a “loud smash” and “saw a flash” at a property and the two suspects were arrested running towards Broughshane Road.

The officer said they smelt of petrol.

When police went to the property they saw a window had been smashed and the occupants – who are believed to be foreign nationals – were attempting to put out a fire using bath water. There was scorch damage to the stairs.

The officer said: “If it wasn’t for the quick actions of the occupants the stairs would have gone up in fire and blocked their means of escape”.

He said there was also a “brick inside a note”.

The policeman said two of the occupants of the house said Zielinski had formerly lived there earlier this year but was asked to leave as he had “not paid for any rent”.

The officer said Zielinski told police he smelt of petrol because he had been putting petrol in a lawnmower.

Defence barrister Neil Moore said they were “serious allegations” and “despite the very strong circumstantial case this is a matter that given the fact that there was no clear identification of these two gentlemen will be reliant on forensic analysis”.

With the Covid situation he said that was likely to take some time.

He said there was “some potential issue between the two defendants and the three complainants”.

The court heard police were awaiting receipt of a check into whether the accused had any international records.

Refusing bail, District Judge Peter King said: “In terms of dealing with cases of this sort I had hoped that in the Northern Ireland context our days of dealing with these sort of offences were well and truly in the past.

“It is absolutely no surprise that the primary legislation is dated from 1969 but here we are in 2020 dealing with petrol bomb attacks”.

He added that anybody who thinks that the court does not view petrol bomb attacks on a house late at night “anything other than extremely seriously and potentially lethal is kidding themselves”.

The judge said the case outlined by police was “striking” and it was “only by good luck that we dealing with cases involving petrol bombing not cases involving fatalities”.

He added: “There were three people in the house attacked, the attack caused a fire within the house and it was only through good fortune that the three people were not seriously injured or killed”.

The judge said there was an “extremely strong” case against the defendants and said that when he heard the explanation as to how they “smelt of petrol” his reaction was “somewhere between amusement and incredulity”.

He said it was a “most serious” case and added: “It is clear that anybody who resorts to potentially fatal assaults on property” pose a risk of re-offending.

He refused bail on the grounds of further offences; potential interference with witnesses and potential flight risk.

Both accused were remanded in custody to appear at Ballymena Magistrates Court on December 10 via video link.

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