Man (73) on life support after ‘vicious’ assault in Co Sligo home

Thomas Niland crawled from his house to raise the alarm

There are grave concerns for the life of a 73-year-old man who is on life support following a “vicious” assault during a burglary at his home in Skreen, Co Sligo.

Tom Niland was forced to crawl, badly injured, from his home to a nearby roadside in the hope that passing motorists would come to his aid. A small sum of money was stolen by the attackers.

Mr Niland, who lives alone, sustained serious injuries to his head and body. His shoelaces appear to have been tied together by the gang to limit his mobility and he suffered broken bones to his face.

The attack occurred on Tuesday, January 18th. Gardaí believe Mr Niland was at home watching television at about 7pm when he went to the door to answer to a caller. When he opened the door three masked men forced their way into his house.


The gang had reversed their car into the driveway of Mr Niland’s home. They searched the house and found a small sum of money then drove away, leaving Mr Niland badly injured.

Mr Niland crawled to the N59 Sligo to Ballina road where he was seen by neighbours and the gardaí were alerted. He was taken to Sligo University Hospital and was able to speak to gardaí in the days that followed, describing the attack. His condition has worsened, however, and he is now on life support.

On Sunday gardaí in Sligo appealed to members of the public to come forward and share information that might catch the men who assaulted Mr Niland.

Supt Mandy Gaynor of Sligo Garda station said "no stone would be left unturned" in the investigation but she also believed members of the public had important information to share with detectives.


"There are people out there who know who was involved in this aggravated burglary and serious assault on an elderly man in his home," she said. "Thomas Niland and his family deserve to have these criminals who carried out this heartless act brought to justice."

Supt Gaynor added Mr Niland was a law-abiding person attacked in a “callous and cowardly” burglary. When Mr Niland had answered to a caller he was “immediately and viciously assaulted and a small sum of money was stolen”.

Gardaí believe the three men entered Mr Niland’s house, however they have not ruled out the possibility that at least one other gang member may have remained in the car, which had been reversed into the driveway to ensure a quick escape.

On the night of the attack local gardaí erected checkpoints and house-to-house inquiries were carried out. The scene of the crime was examined by the Garda Technical Bureau and CCTV footage has been gathered.

Gardaí believe that people driving in the area, specifically the Sligo-Ballina road at 4pm-8pm on the day of the attack, may have dashcam footage that could aid the inquiry. A Garda liaison officer was appointed to Mr Niland’s family as the investigation continues.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times