Gardaí pursue gang responsible for spate of robberies in Donegal

Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 00:00

Gardaí are trying to track down a gang of criminals who struck eight times in less than four hours in Co Donegal.

The gang of four robbed several houses by using distraction techniques. They first struck at about midday on Monday in the town of Raphoe before targeting other homes in the nearby villages of Convoy and Drumkeen.

The thieves escaped with valuables including jewellery, cash and laptop computers.

Separately, a parish priest in east Galway who was assaulted when he disturbed raiders at his house has appealed to people in rural areas to look out for each other.

One of the victims of the string of robberies in Donegal was an 86-year-old woman who the raiders brushed past and tried to rob before making a quick getaway.

Some of the gang members distracted homeowners at the front of the property as other thieves entered at the rear.

Garda Supt Vincent O’Brien said they believe they know the identity of those in the gang. He said they have received invaluable assistance from the public and from the PSNI across the Border.

“We believe this is a gang of travelling criminals who operate in a hit-and-run fashion. They enter a town and carry out as many raids as they can before leaving again,” he said.

Robbery and assault

Gardaí say they are looking for CCTV footage from business owners which may include a blue or green-coloured Mazda 6 car which officers believe was used by the gang.

The Letterkenny-based garda said he did not think the wave of burglaries was connected to the robbery and assault of 96-year-old pensioner Greta Lilly in Buncrana last weekend.

In the Galway incident Fr Christy McCormack (55), parish priest in Fohenagh, Co Galway, was punched when he interrupted thieves. He believes the raiders were trying to steal heating oil when he disturbed them in the early hours of Monday morning.

It was the second time raiders have struck, as just before Christmas thieves stole heating oil from the local national school in Fohenagh as well as the parish church. Since then security improvements have been put in place and Fr McCormack believes that when they could not get to the oil tanks again, the raiders attempted to rob the parochial house.

Vulnerable people

After interrupting the gang, Fr McCormack was blind-sided by a punch from one of the thieves and he fears raiders are targeting vulnerable people in rural areas.

After his experience and the attack on Ms Lilly, Fr McCormack has urged rural dwellers around the country to keep an eye on their property and on their neighbours.

“These people target opportunities. They knew that we’d have oil in the church for the Christmas and when they discovered they could no longer take it, they looked at the house here.

“Now they’ll move on to some other area. I urge people to keep a sharp eye on anything they can see but also to keep an eye on their neighbours and use things like the neighbourhood watch.

“Look at that incident with the elderly lady in Donegal, we need to be on our toes.”