‘It was very frightening’

Cormac, left, and Cathal Cullen outside their shop in Cockhill. (1502PG60)
Cormac, left, and Cathal Cullen outside their shop in Cockhill. (1502PG60)

A Buncrana shopkeeper has spoken of the “very frightening” moment he was confronted by a knife-wielding robber.

Cormac Cullen, from Cathal Cullen’s of Cockhill, was alone at the shop’s checkout when a man with his face masked by a scarf confronted him with a meat carving knife at around 7.45pm on Monday

“He came in and pointed at the till with the knife, he didn’t say anything. He had a meat carving knife and there was nobody else in the shop - it was scary alright,” Mr Cullen, the son of the owner, told the ‘Journal’.

After stealing a sum in cash form the till, the robber was caught on CCTV making his escape through a field to the rear of the shop.

The victim then alerted the Gardai, who were at the scene “within minutes”. “I pushed the panic botton and followed him out of the shop but he was gone. The guards were very quickly on the scene, it was within minutes.”

Cullen’s of Cockhill has been in operation for more than 76 years and in its entire history has never witnessed an armed robbery.

Security at the grocery, hardware store, general merchants and filling station is to be reviewed following the incident, Mr Cullen said.

Cathal Cullen, the owner of the premises at Cockhill Road, was eating his dinner in the adjoining family home when the incident occurred. He later praised the Gardai for their quick response after the alarm was raised.

Colr. Rena Donaghey, a long-time resident of Cockhill who only recently moved from the area, said the local community was “totally shocked” by the incident.

She said: “There were a few arrests following the recent spate of burglaries and everyone thought there was a kind of lull. The whole community is totally shocked. Cullen’s is a family run business that has been there for years and years. The family are the most obliging people and are very, very popular.

“To steal someone’s takings at a time when businesses are struggling to keep going and to use a knife is disgraceful.

“I would ask anyone who has even the slightest shred of information to get in touch with the Gardaí.”

Local Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran McLaughlin condemned the attack and said his thoughts were with Mr Cullen and his staff.

“I have been shopping in Cullens for years and they are always very helpful and kind.

“Thankfully nobody was hurt but I am asking anybody who may have witnessed anything unusual to come forward and help Gardai.

“The fact that a knife was used in the incident makes it all the more sinister. Anything could have happened,” he said.

Garda Supt. Eugene McGovern said: “We believe he stood outside or near the premises to wait until the shop was empty. Once in the premises, he brandished a 10 inch domestic kitchen knife and demanded cash.

“He went behind the counter and emptied cash into a paper potato bag . . . rolled it up and was carrying it under his left arm when he left the shop.

“We are asking anyone with information to ring us in Buncrana on 074 932 0540.”

The knife used and cash believed to be taken in the robbery were later recovered. A 29 year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident.