'People around here are terrified of being burgled' - Farmer (83) defends son who shot burglar after he ransacked home
An elderly farmer has spoken in defence of his son who confronted and shot a convicted thief after he burgled and ransacked the family home.
Richard Lowndes (83) said his son Graham was "trying to do the right thing" as he chased the thief through the fields of their North County Dublin farm.
Thief Matthew Fahey (36) received a gunshot wound in the arm and was later convicted of the burglary of the elderly farmer's home.
Graham Lowndes (51) received the probation act in Dublin Circuit Court on July 31 last when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of having a shotgun without a certificate on the day he shot Fahey.
A charge of reckless discharge of a shotgun was dropped.
Fahey, who has more than 60 convictions for theft, burglary and car theft, is now suing Graham Lowndes in a civil case for his injury caused by 17 shotgun pellets.
Both father and son spoke to the Irish Independent yesterday about the dramatic events at the farm in Kilsallaghan in rural North County Dublin on April 12, 2012.
Graham Lowndes said he still worries about his elderly father's safety and he feels "very angry" at reports of elderly people being attacked in their homes.
Gangs of thieves who travel through rural Ireland targeting vulnerable elderly people "are like hyenas looking for the weakest prey," said Graham Lowndes.
He advised burglary victims not to act in the heat of the moment if they found themselves in a similar position. Instead he advised calling the gardaí.
Richard Lowndes has lived in the farmhouse for 54 years. He moved in when he became farm manager in 1962.
He raised a family of four with his wife Dorothy who died in 2003.
Mr Lowndes was 79 when Fahey ransacked his home.
He had actually shown Fahey kindness earlier the same day when he took pity on him and gave him tea.
Fahey had already carried out a burglary on another home in the Rolestown area of North County Dublin on the same day.
He and a woman gained access to the rear of the Lowndes home even though there were locked electric entrance gates.
"I used to leave the gates open but then we had a number of trailers and other things on the farm stolen over the years," said Richard.
"I also used to leave the key in the door of the house. That's how things used to be in the past.
"But there have been a lot of burglaries in this area. People around here are terrified of being burgled," he said.
Fahey knocked on the back door of the house when the retired farm manager was having breakfast.
He told him that his van had broken down in the area and that the woman with him was feeling ill.
He asked if he could use his phone to call a taxi to bring her home to Finglas, the farmer recalled.
"I gave the two of them tea at the table and he had plenty of talk," he said.
"The taxi was called and, before they left, I told him that I was leaving the house shortly to travel to Dundalk," he said.
Fahey returned to the empty house that afternoon and broke in. He ransacked the house and stole two watches and €200 in cash.
Fahey also tried to break into a metal shotgun case using a spade but was unsuccessful.
Richard's son Graham, whose given name is also Richard, arrived at the farm when the thief was still on the property.
Graham Lowndes works as a lorry driver and reversed his lorry into the farmyard, unknowingly blocking the escape route of the burglar's Lexus car.
"As soon as I entered the house I saw it was ransacked," the father of five said.
After he realised the house had been burgled Graham telephoned the gardaí.
He was unsure of Fahey's whereabouts but after seeing tyre tracks from the yard into the fields, he grabbed a legally held shotgun belonging to his father and ran down through the fields.
The car had crossed two fields and he confronted Fahey in the hope of detaining him until the gardaí arrived.
"I was in fear of my life but I felt I had to do something," he said.
He said he did not know whether the thief might have had a concealed firearm or not.
"At the moment, I still have Fahey's civil case for damages hanging over me," he said.
The confrontation resulted in the shotgun being discharged and the thief being driven away from the scene by another man in a large BMW SUV which stopped on the roadway near the farm.
Fahey, a drug addict, later pleaded guilty to the burglary of the farmhouse and of another house in the area earlier on the same day. He received a six-year sentence with four years suspended.
Graham Lowndes had to wait four years for his own case to come to court which caused much worry for his father and for his own five children.
His father Richard said: "My son went through four years of hell waiting for the case."
Graham Lowndes said he was grateful to receive the probation act.
"I believe it is still too easy for criminals to cruise at leisure around rural Ireland looking for poor, unfortunate victims. They're like hyenas looking for the weakest prey," he said.
"More gardaí should be freed up from desk jobs to make more gardaí visible in rural Ireland as a deterrent to the thieves.
"The technology exists for number plate recognition cameras to be installed around rural Ireland so that the comings and goings of criminal gangs can be recorded," he said.
Both father and son said more must be done to protect rural dwellers.