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Tiger raiders said they'd put my girl in a grave if I raised alarm

TIGER kidnappers warned a terrified shopkeeper they would "put your girl in the graveyard" if he raised the alarm.

The traumatised couple targeted in the latest raid have spoke of their ordeal at the hands of the three armed men who robbed them at gunpoint.

Joe McLaughlin was forced to stuff a bag with €100,000 in cash as the raiders held his partner Tess Coleman hostage after making the chilling threat.

The raiders forced their way into the couple's Co Louth home and kept Ms Coleman hostage there while Mr McLaughlin was ordered to go to the couple's shop and post office in Castlebellingham.

Gardai are hunting the three raiders following the incident in the early hours of yesterday morning.



Confronted

The kidnap and raid at a small local shop is a new departure as previous tiger raids have mainly targeted banks.

The couple's ordeal began at around 5.45am yesterday when the raiders confronted Mr McLaughlin at his front door after he had returned from walking his dog.

A gun was put to his head and he was ordered into the house to join Ms Coleman. The raiders tied her to a chair, took a picture of her on a mobile phone and forced her to write a note of instructions for the post office staff.

Mr McLaughlin was ordered to go to work and show the picture and instructions to the postmistress, who then filled a black bag with the cash.

"I had to leave it at a specified place and I was told that, if the gardai were contacted or there was an alarm or buzzer, Tess would be found in a graveyard," Mr McLaughlin said.

After dropping off the cash, Mr McLaughlin collapsed on the footpath and the alarm was raised. He then spent the "longest 40 minutes" of his life waiting for news that Ms Coleman was unharmed.

"We are severely traumatised and will never get over what happened," he said, adding that his partner was "bearing up okay".

"She is a very strong-willed woman but I don't want her ever to go through something like that again."

Ms Coleman said: "They tied me up with plastic ropes and held a gun up to the back of my head. But they weren't aggressive or shouting at me. I wasn't that scared at the time. I was more worried for Joe."

Mr McLaughlin has now called for the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to meet him to see the effects of crime in an area with low garda numbers.

"There's only four guards in the whole village of Castlebellingham," Mr McLaughlin said. "It's the Minister's responsibility. There's criminals running riot around here, it's an absolute shambles."

The three raiders drove away in a small black car. At least one was described as having a Dublin accent.

Anyone with information can contact Ardee Garda Station on 041-6853222 or the garda confidential line on 1800-666-111.

aphelan@herald.ie


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