Hate crime | 

Nigerian taxi driver forced to flee home after two break-ins and death threat in one week

‘I’m a grown man and I thought I could handle myself, but I just couldn’t deal with it’

Muri Toriola at his home in north Belfast© Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Muri Toriola is now too afraid to stay in his home© Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Stephanie BellSunday Life

A Nigerian taxi driver fled his north Belfast home in fear after two burglaries and a threat to his life in the space of a week.

Muri Toriola (45) lost thousands of pounds worth of belongings in the raids on his home, the latest of which happened last weekend.

He was also left shaken by a man who called at his house on Mountcollyer Avenue and threatened his life after he reported the first break-in to police.

The PSNI charged a man in relation to the incident and confirmed it was treating the burglaries as hate crimes.

Now too frightened to stay in his home, Mr Toriola said: “I’ve never been in this situation before. It is strange to me.

“I’m a grown man and I thought I could handle myself, but I just couldn’t deal with it. I’ve had to move out to a friend’s house.”

Muri was first burgled two weeks ago while working a four-hour shift for Fonacab.

He recalled: “I went to work at 8pm and was home about 12.30. As soon as I got in, I saw letters scattered all over the floor.

“I had bought a bottle of perfume at £85 and a bottle of champagne at £40 for a friend as a present. They were gone.

“Then I noticed all my kitchen drawers were opened and I knew something was wrong.”

When he searched the house, he discovered watches and £750 in cash were missing. The thugs had even taken beer from his fridge.

Muri Toriola is now too afraid to stay in his home© Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Police carried out a examination of the flat and launched an investigation. Two days later, Muri answered a bang on his door, only to be confronted by a stranger threatening him.

He said: “I went to the door and a guy was standing outside shouting at me for sending the police to his house. I didn’t know the guy and had no idea what he was talking about.

“He said, ‘I’m going to bury you in the ground’. I was very shaken by it and I haven’t been able to sleep properly since it.

“My sister, who lives in London, asked me to visit her last weekend to get away from it. When I came back on Monday, I noticed that my house had been burgled again.”

This time, thieves broke a window to gain access, taking a television, three mobile phones, a laptop and a bag full of bottles of aftershave.

A spate of similar incidents on the homes of migrants living in the area led him to believe the attacks were racially motivated. He said: “There have been a few break-ins in this area and they are all at the homes of people who are of foreign origin, which makes me believe I was targeted because I am Nigerian.

“I’ve lived here for 18 years and as a taxi driver I do get some racial abuse, but it is only the small minority — most people are great.

“It has been a trauma for me and I’m finding it hard to deal with.

“I’m not sleeping and at the minute and I can’t imagine going back to my house. I’m taking it day by day, but I feel that I will definitely have to find somewhere else to live.”

Police said a 30-year-old man had been charged in relation to the threat against Mr Toriola. He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on December 7. The PSNI confirmed both burglaries were being treated as a hate crime.

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