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Sunday 25 February 2018

Shot missed my head by inches, says farmer after gunman kills his dog over land dispute

John Hayes was shot while in his tractor Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
John Hayes was shot while in his tractor Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

David Raleigh

A man in his 70s has been arrested by gardaí investigating the shooting of a farmer, in which he was injured and his dog died.

The incident is connected to a land dispute.

Farmer John Hayes (65) said the bullet - which fatally wounded his loyal border collie sheepdog Lassie - missed his head "by inches".

Mr Hayes claimed the shot grazed the his shoulder as he went to cut grass on his family's nine acres of farmland at Kildimo, Co Limerick.

Gardaí arrested a man after the shooting, which occurred around 10.45am yesterday.

"I was going up to my farm to cut and manure my field, and then this lad wouldn't allow me up to the field.

"He pulled a gun out of the back of his van and fired a shot at me," Mr Hayes added.

"It shot in through the window of my tractor and killed my dog inside."

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Mr Hayes was taken by ambulance from the scene to University Hospital Limerick, and treated for a minor gunshot wound.

Dead

"It was one shot...from a single barrel shotgun. I didn't get a chance to dive back.

"He just pulled the trigger. He was only a maximum 10 yards away.

"He told me I wasn't going up (the land)."

Mr Hayes said he retreated from the scene in his tractor as his dog lay dead at his side.

"I backed off out of the way... It was enough to have the dog lost.

"I have her [Lassie] about eight years. She'd have done anything for me.

"She was my friend only, no one else's. She'd work for no one else, only me. She'd always go out with me in the tractor.

"The dog was invaluable, a thousand euro wouldn't buy her. Her grandfathers on each side won the English National."

Mr Hayes claimed the shooting was linked to local land dispute.

"It's going on for the past 10 years. I'm sick of it," he said.

Mr Hayes said he has been farming the area all his life.

"It was my mother Maura's and my father Jeremiah's land, but they have since passed on. My father died when I was only two."

His family - who were on holiday in Portugal - were due to fly back after Mr Hayes was discharged from hospital.

"I don't know how I'm feeling, maybe the nightmare of it will all come back to me later tonight," he said.

Armed gardaí responded to the scene, and shortly after they intercepted a man in his 70s, a short distance away, in Patrickswell.

"We have one person arrested for questioning.

"He was arrested under the Offences Against the State Act and he's being held under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act," a spokesman said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Newcastle West garda station.


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