Tuesday 24 October 2017

‘What kind of people would do this to me in my own home?’

Maureen Kelly (86) was the victim of an attempted robbery at her home near Convoy, Co Donegal

Greg Harkin

AN 86-year-old pensioner wept as she told of how a gang behind a spate of robberies ransacked her home.

Maureen Kelly lives alone in a quiet rural area just outside Convoy, Co Donegal. Several other pensioners were targeted in a four-hour crime spree in the east of the county on the same day.

A Traveller gang which bases itself in Derry and Sheffield is suspected of being behind at least eight raids on Monday – less than 72 hours after thieves stole a substantial amount of money from Greta Lilly (96) in Buncrana.

"I was terrified and I'm still shaking," said Miss Kelly, as neighbours took turns to be with her. "A man came to the front door and said he was looking for a dog which had been lost.

"Then he just pushed past me. There was a girl with him and she stood like a guard over me while he went went through things.

"He didn't get anything because I don't have anything to take. I'm just thankful they didn't hit me; I could have been killed, so I'm thankful for that."

As she wiped tears from her face, she added: "I don't know what sort of people would do this to someone like me in my own home. It's just terrible."

Her milkman and neighbour Brendan McElhinney (34) had his cab raided while he was delivering milk in the area at the time.

"They didn't get anything because I had my money satchel with me," he said. "I'm okay; I can get over something like that but for a lovely old lady in her 80s, it is something else altogether."

Two kilometres away in the centre of Convoy town, gardai were at another cottage with a team of forensic experts.

This time the elderly resident wasn't at home when the raiders called. She has been in a nursing home for the past 18 months.

The thefts are just the latest in a series of incidents over the past two years where crime gangs from the North target vulnerable residents in Donegal.

The gang raided eight homes using an English-registered car which had arrived in the past few days. Eyewitnesses said a ferry company ticket was seen dangling from a mirror inside the car.

"Gardai gave chase to the vehicle and it crossed the Border into Derry," said Supt Vincent O'Brien.

"Colleagues in the PSNI provided assistance and we have now identified the people we believe were responsible.

"They took money, jewellery and laptops from homes. They would send one gang member to the front door to create a diversion while someone else entered the homes. Where there was no-one at home, they just broke in."

Donegal lost five rural Garda stations in the latest cuts. But it's the lack of resources along the Border which concerns gardai.

One garda, who asked not to be named, said. "It's just crazy that Alan Shatter thinks we can patrol the Border without taking any account of the populations beside us in the North and the crime gangs operating out of there."

Pensioner Greta Lilly spent a fourth night in Letterkenny General Hospital last night as local people in Buncrana launched a campaign to raise money to buy her new windows. Thieves stole the money she had been saving up to pay for home improvements.

Meanwhile, Fr Christy McCormack, the Co Galway parish priest who was assaulted outside his home in Fohenagh by a gang of raiders, has warned that people are being left vulnerable in their homes. "It's sad to say that every citizen in the State is becoming more and more vulnerable. There is such lack of respect for person and property." he said.

Irish Independent

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