Prolific gang suspects in vile raid on farmer (77)
Gardaí are investigating if a prolific crime gang led by a serial burglar from the midlands was behind an armed raid in which a visually impaired farmer was savagely beaten.
Joseph Waters (77) was sitting at his kitchen table in his rural bungalow in the Kildangan area of Durrow, Co Offaly, when the gang broke in at around 8pm on Monday.
He was struck a number of times on the body, suffering a particularly severe "belt" to his head. Neighbour PJ Gorman said Mr Waters was alone when the attackers climbed through a window they had smashed at the back of the house.
Investigators are probing if a violent burglary gang, which is suspected over more than 20 raids in the last month, was behind the attack on the elderly bachelor.
The ruthless gang members are also chief suspects in the horrific aggravated burglary of farmer Richard McKelvey (54).
He was dragged from his bed and beaten by a gang of four men at his home in Glassderry beg, Brosna, near Birr, Co Offaly, over two months ago.
The gang is led by a serial burglar in his early 20s from Laois and has become a priority for gardaí as they aim to clamp down on the criminals over the festive season.
Shortly after 8pm on Monday, a gang broke into Mr Waters's home before he was pinned to the floor, viciously beaten with sticks and threatened with a knife as three masked men ransacked his home for his life savings.
When the attackers later fled, Mr Waters stayed in the house for about half an hour because he was afraid he'd be attacked again if the men were still outside.
"They started shouting, 'We want the money, we want the money, we'll kill you, we'll kill you'. They then pegged him to the floor," Mr Gorman told Independent.ie.
"Two of them went into another room, searching and pulling the place apart.
"The other lad held Joe in the kitchen, took out a knife, and held it to his throat.
"Each of them also had sticks about an inch-and-a-half thick, and three-foot long.
"They belted him with their weapons, and pulled him around the yard to try and loosen him up."
A Garda spokesman said that Mr Waters was treated for shock and minor injuries but was later discharged from hospital.
Irish Farmers' Association national treasurer Jer Bergin appealed for anybody in Offaly who can help gardaí with their investigation to come forward.
"Community-based gardaí are the most effective tool in policing a country like Ireland.
"The continued recruitment of new Garda members, and their allocation in rural areas, or the reallocation of experienced gardaí to rural areas, will go a long way to restoring a sense of security to rural dwellers," he said.
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