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Monday 11 December 2017

Pensioners tell of terror ordeal in armed raid

'Tony started shaking in bed when the man put the knife to the side of his throat'

Kathleen Burke (82) and Tony Burke (75), who were held at knife-point at their home in the early hours of Saturday morning
Kathleen Burke (82) and Tony Burke (75), who were held at knife-point at their home in the early hours of Saturday morning
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A PROFOUNDLY deaf man who walks with the aid of a Zimmer frame was held at knifepoint while his elderly wife was threatened with a double-barrelled shotgun before three men stole €650 and their home telephone.

The couple, Kathleen Burke (82) and her husband Tony (75), spoke of their shocking ordeal last night, just days after thieves broke into their two-bedroom cottage in Emper, near Ballynacargy in Co Westmeath.

Brave Kathleen revealed how she tried to grab a shotgun from one of the intruders, only to be knocked to the ground.

The drama unfolded shortly after 1.15am on Saturday.

Kathleen was awoken to the sound of a loud "banging noise" outside their home and after she walked out of the couple's bedroom she saw a hand reaching through broken glass on their front door.


"I heard the noise which I thought was a car crash outside our home. I stepped outside our bedroom, which is beside the front door, and I saw a hand reaching in to open the handle. The man walked straight in and started shouting 'where's your f***ing money'," she said.

"I told him we didn't have any but then he walked into the bedroom where Tony was. Another man had a knife and he walked up to Tony who was lying in bed at the time.

"Tony started shaking in bed when the man put the knife to the side of his throat, and he also started shouting at him, 'tell us where your f***ing money is'."

Tony said one of the men then used the handle of the knife to repeatedly "thump" him on the chest, and he was "terrified" it would damage his pacemaker.

"He kept saying 'where's the f***ing money, where's the f***ing money'. I didn't know what he was saying at the time but I had an idea. He then turned the knife around and hit me hard on the chest with the handle. I had a battery put in my pacemaker two weeks ago and thought it would damage it."

"He was afraid that they'd pull it out or something," added Kathleen.

"They took his wallet from his pants and then went into the kitchen. They pulled everything out of the cupboards and ransacked the whole house. One of them was thinking about taking the television. They went into the other bedroom and lifted the mattress to see if we had money hidden there.

"One of the men found our licensed shotgun and I tried to grab it from him but I couldn't keep hold of it. He pushed me and knocked me to the ground. He was only 16 or 17 but it wasn't loaded. The knife scraped my leg as I was trying to take the gun from him.

"I was left on the floor and Tony had to lift himself out of the bed and help me up when they had gone," she added.

"There was a man waiting outside the whole time it went on. He was the only one with a mask on his face. Before they left, they pulled the landline phone off the wall and took some old mobile phones we had. It was terrifying."


Tony broke his hip in a road traffic accident last Christmas and is only able to walk with the aid of a Zimmer frame.

Following the 30-minute ordeal, the couple managed to raise the alarm by flagging down a passing car.

"I was shouting to our neighbours down the road but they didn't hear me," said Kathleen.

"I had to go out on the road with Tony, who had his Zimmer frame, and we flagged down a car.

"We don't sleep at all now, we're terrified. I injured my back and have pretty bad bruising," she said.

Tony added: "We only get €170 each every Friday in our pension so we don't have much money. That was to go towards the renovation of our house. I'm nervous, and I don't sleep."

Gardai are appealing for anyone with information about the burglary to come forward.

Irish Independent

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