Gardaí believe an arson attack on a family farm in Offaly was "a targeted act" and are appealing for those with information to come forward.
The attack which took place on November 27, 2021 on the farm of the O'Neill family on the outskirts of Clonbulloge, will feature on tonight's Crimecall on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.
Farm owner, Eugene O’Neill, learned of the fire on his farm when a neighbour began banging on the window of his family home to alert them.
"Around 7 o’clock in the morning our neighbour woke us up. She just kept shouting ‘fire, fire, fire’.”
“We couldn’t see much only smoke, it was very windy.
"There was smoke everywhere. We didn’t even know what was on fire and what wasn’t.”
Eugene and his family discovered several fires in and around their farm, putting their livestock, expensive farm machinery, automatic milking robot and their house at risk.
Approximately €400,000 - €500,000 worth of damage was caused by the fire including the destruction of the automatic milking robot, putting a stop to the family’s plans for expanding the farm.
Gardaí investigators found that the farm machinery had been “individually packed with straw” and set alight. Although the farm was covered by extensive CCTV cameras, Garda believe the cable to the cameras was deliberately cut shortly before 5am on the morning of the fire.
They say the hard drive for the cameras was taken on the night and “has yet to be recovered.”
One of Eugene’s biggest concerns is whether “they will come back and do it again.”
Eugene’s wife, Lorraine, says she vividly remembers the intensity of the flames and the scramble as family members entered burning sheds to rescue animals and equipment.
“There was a huge ball of orange flames facing me… You watched holding your breath until they came out. That was horrible.
"It was really, really windy and it was blowing the fire towards us and towards the house.
“It’s the most terrifying feeling to think that when you go to bed at night, there are people on the road, moving around with bad intent.”