DETECTIVES are hunting arsonists who torched a garda's private car while he was on patrol.
Gda Damian O'Connor returned to Kilmacrennan garda station in Co Donegal yesterday to find his silver Toyota Corolla in flames on the road outside.
Gda O'Connor's vehicle was taken away for forensic examination. Sources say it may have been carried out by criminals recently investigated for incidents in the village, 12km from Letterkenny.
The incident came less than 24 hours after arsonists struck at a farm in the townland of Ballyheerin, just outside Kilmacrennan. Farm buildings, horse carts and a van were set alight. No one was injured.
Last night gardai appealed for information on the attacks.
They said the fire in Gda O'Connor's car was discovered at 5.45am. He is the only officer at the village station.
"This was a despicable act of wanton vandalism," said a garda spokesman. "We would appeal to anyone with information to give it to gardai."
Local independent councillor Michael McBride, whose late father had been the village sergeant for many years, condemned those responsible.
"It marks a new low," said the councillor, who recently set up a community alert scheme.
"This sort of incident is extremely rare, thankfully, but it shows the level some criminals will go to in an attempt to disrupt the work of gardai.
"The village and surrounding community is rightly angry after what has happened as it comes after a huge increase in crime in the area, from burglaries, oil thefts and now arson attacks."
He blamed cuts to rural garda resources for the crime increase.
Meanwhile, a man has been charged with robbery and attempted robbery after two incidents in Letterkenny.
A man, armed with a knife, attempted to rob the Glencar filling station on Saturday night. Staff managed to wrestle him to the ground and detain him until gardai arrived.
In another incident last Sunday, a convenience store was robbed on the town's main street. A member of staff was threatened with a knife.
A 24-year-old man has been charged in relation to both incidents and has been bailed to appear at Letterkenny District Court on April 24.