Thief slashes punter with scalpel
GARDAI have warned racegoers in Galway to be on the alert for a gang of pickpockets using scalpels to slice open jackets and handbags.
In an incident yesterday a punter was wounded after a scalpel sliced his abdomen during an attempt to rob his wallet.
After he discovered his wallet was missing, he reported the loss to gardai at Ballybrit. Only then was it brought to his attention that he appeared to be bleeding from his lower abdomen.
Medical attention was summoned for the man, who was completely unaware that he had sustained a nasty cut. He received a number of minor stitches.
Gardai then took him aside to fill him in on the background to his injury. He had fallen prey to what gardai in Galway believe is a Romanian gang of thieves who are tracking vulnerable racegoers and holidaymakers armed with scalpels.
When the opportunity arises in the crowds they slice the bottom of a jacket or trousers pocket to allow a wallet to fall away easily into their hands.
"It's a nasty, ruthless crime and thankfully this man was not too badly injured. He was more shocked at what had happened than anything else," a senior garda spokesman told the Irish Independent.
The scalpel-wielding gang have also been targeting women, slicing open the bottom of handbags to make off with purses.
"We want to warn racegoers at the track and also in the busy pubs and city-centre streets at night that these people are in town for the big week. They should be particularly careful in crowded situations and avoid carrying large sums of money if at all possible," the spokesman added.
Meanwhile, a crackdown on camper vans and mobile homes parking along Salthill promenade and other scenic areas of the city has forced some racegoers off Galway's streets and into pay-as-you-go caravan parks.
Galway City Council was on the receiving end of numerous complaints following an influx of camper vans parking along the main tourist area in Salthill for last year's racing festival.
As well as blocking the scenery for seaside strollers, the camper van occupants had taken to using the facilities of local businesses "on the cheap" every morning.