| 12.2°C Dublin

Gardai probe 999 call that could have saved life of battered OAP

GARDAI were last night trying to establish if sufficient effort was made to follow up a 999 emergency call that might have saved the life of pensioner Eugene Gillespie.

The anonymous telephone call was made early on Thursday afternoon, 32 hours before the pensioner was found by relatives, and described how a man had been tied up inside a house with a brown gate at Market Street

Mr Gillespie, who was 67, died from his injuries in the town's general hospital on Saturday night.

His home is less than 100 metres from the garda station.

And the caller specified that the house was directly across from the garda station.

Responding to the call, gardai went directly to the house described by the caller and made checks.

They "satisfied themselves that there was nothing untoward", gardai said last night.

One officer said: "It was a brief call with limited and anonymous information and we checked out exactly what we were told.

"We did not know at that stage that a man had been attacked in a nearby house."

However, inquiries were being carried out last night into whether additional checks should have been made further down the street, where Mr Gillespie lived in a house with a brown garage door.

Officers are also liaising with telephone companies to help identify the caller, who could be crucial to their criminal investigation.

Mr Gillespie's plight was not discovered until 9.20pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, gardai raided a number of homes and other premises across Sligo town at dawn yesterday as part of their inquiries into Mr Gillespie's murder and other aggravated burglaries in the area in recent months.

Gardai suspect a gang has been targeting the homes of vulnerable people in the area.

Forensic officers have collected key evidence at the murder scene at Mr Gillespie's home on Old Market Street.

Blood

This includes footprints left in blood found at the scene.

"Gardai believe the person who made the 999 call last Thursday was either at the scene of the attack on Mr Gillespie or was close by and may have realised how serious those injuries were," said one source.

"Detectives are hoping phone records will trace that caller and lead them to the killer or killers."

Gardai renewed their appeal to anyone with information or who could assist with the investigation to contact the incident room at Sligo station on 071-9157000, the confidential line 1800 666 111 or any station."

A memorial fund aimed at raising cash for a reward to catch the killers has been set up at Sligo Credit Union.

Irish Independent