Gardai in Buncrana say they are following ‘a number of lines of inquiry’ after the recent spate of robberies in Inishowen. And Garda Inspector David Murphy said the force is ‘extremely pleased’ with the massive public response to their appeal for information.
In the wake of a number of high profile burglaries, several of which involved worrying levels of violence, there have been calls for a major crackdown against the criminals, many of whom are thought to be from across the border.
After major incidents in Bunrana, Raphoe and Pettigo in recent weeks, on Monday night two brothers fought off a gang of four burglars in Manorcunnigham; on Tuesday night 65 year old John Gallagher, who lives alone, was robbed in his isolated home at Hillside, Buncrana; and later the same evening an 80 year old woman, Bernie Doherty, of Mitchelstown, Ture, who also lives alone, was robbed, possibly by the same gang.
The crime spreee has attracted not only banner headlines in the national media but also RTE’s top current affairs programme, ‘Primetime’ who did a special outside broadcast live from Pettigo on Tuesday night where they talked to Phyllis McGee, the 80 year old woman who was seriously manhandled on Saturday last by a group of invaders who demanded money. It was the second time Phyllis had been robbed in little over five weeks.
Speaking yesterday Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn said recent crimes represented ‘a new low’ even for the criminal fraternity.
“It doesn’t seem enough just to rob old people living in isolated areas, but they also aggravate the crime by using violence.
“What’s worrying too is that it doesn’t seem to be the actions of one gang; there seems to be any number of criminals engaged in this spree.
“Myself and Pearse have asked for a meeting with Commissioner Martin Callinan as a matter of urgency. We need to know what additional resources, if any, are being made available to the personnel in Donegal.”
This week’s events began on Monday evening when Eric and Jim Steele came across a gang of up to four men who tried to break into their home in Manorcunningham late on Monday night.
The brothers, aged 68 and 75, both farmers, were preparing to go to bed at their home on Main Street when they heard a disturbance.
Eric Steele said: “We were sitting in the living room and I saw feet in the shadows underneath the kitchen door.
“Jim went to the door between the living room and the kitchen and he grabbed a brush shaft.
“There were four of them. They had masks on and big coats and Jim gave one of them one hell of a bleaching. They turned and ran out the door.
“We shouted after them but they disappeared. They didn’t get anything,” said Eric.
On Tuesday night 65-year-old John Gallagher was beaten before his home was ransacked. The thieves then locked him in a shed. Mr. Gallagher was described locally as a ‘quiet, shy, decent man.’
Local shopkeeper, Connie Gill said the neigbourhood was ‘in a state of shock’ with the second attack in the area in little over a fortnight, 96 year old Margaret ‘Greta’ Lilly being punched and robbed at her home at Aghilly just a little over a week earlier.
After the 7.30pm attack the five man gang then drove to Ture where they beat up an 80-year-old woman before leaving the scene in a blue or grey Proton car.
A Garda spokesman said: “An investigation has commenced and Gardaí are appealing for anyone with information to contact the Gardaí at Buncrana 074-9320002 or 20540, the Garda Confidential Line 1800-666-111 or any Garda Station.”
Describing the latest incidents a Garda spokesman said: “The five men forced their way into the Linsfort house and demanded cash, during the course of this burglary the man was assaulted they then locked the injured man into a shed and fled the scene. The man managed to free himself a short time later and raise the alarm. The raiders took a small amount of cash.
“In the second incident five males called to the home an 80 year old woman at approximately 9pm at Ture, Muff, Co Donegal. They demanded cash and assaulted this lady. It is not known if anything was taken during this incident.”