Thieves steal thousands from Limerick charity for sick children

Raiders cut fence and tunnelled through wall to gain entry: ‘It’s like escape from Alcatraz’

CCTV footage shows armed raiders who cut through a steel security fence and tunnelled through a wall before stealing €4,000 from a charity for sick children in Limerick. Video: David Raleigh

 

Armed raiders cut through a steel security fence and tunnelled through a wall before stealing up €4,000 from a charity for sick children in Limerick early on Tuesday.

The elaborate break-in - the second in the past two months at the Share A Dream Foundation’s Limerick play centre in has left the charity reeling and facing a significant bill for damages.

Founder Shay Kinsella said the charity faces a struggle to survive.

Visibly shaken by the robbery, he said: “This has taken a lot out of me. We are very badly off for funds”. The charity relies on donations and apart, from a handful of paid staff relies on volunteers.

Mr Kinsella said it costs an estimated €300,000 annually to run the Share A Dream Foundation, which fulfils dreams for terminally-ill children, and Dreamland, which provides play facilities for both disabled and able-bodied children.

“We are finding it really difficult to keep going, because of stuff like this,” Mr Kinsella added.

Two men wearing face masks and carrying an axe and a crow bar can be seen on the centre’s CCTV cameras shortly after 4am.

The raiders are believed to have cut through a steel security fence at the rear of the centre before tunnelling through a back wall and smashing their way into the centre through an interior wall.

The two-man gang ransacked offices upstairs before fleeing with a safe, a petty cash box, and the proceeds of a giant glass bowl of cash donations.

Ciara Brolly, Share A Dream project manager, arrived at the scene shortly after the robbery upon receiving an alert that a security alarms had activated.

Footage from CCTV cameras at the premises appears to show two raiders attempting to smash alarms and cameras.

An overnight robbery at the Share A Dream Foundation caused thousands of euros in damage. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22
An overnight robbery at the Share A Dream Foundation caused thousands of euros in damage. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22

“It’s frightening. We could see all the damage that had been done at the back door going in. There were pieces of the (alarm) keypad and bits of electrical boards lying all over the ground,” Ms Brolly said.

Tunnelled

“When gardaí went down to the supermarket role-play area they saw (the raiders) had tunnelled in through the back. It’s like an escape from Alcatraz - it was a tunnelled all the way through to the outside, at the back.”

“When we looked at the back they had taken the galvanize (sheeting) off the back. They cut through the steel security fence. They had axes, and hammers, ladders, and they smashed cameras, locks, everything.”

Ms Brolly said the raiders then went to the office where the safe is kept. “We were open for the bank holiday weekend and we were doing parties and events, and the takings of all that would have been put in the safe to be lodged today, but, unfortunately they took that,” Ms Brolly said.

“They took thousands,” she added.

Following the previous robbery last September, the charity purchased and fitted a reinforced safe, but the thieves managed to take it with them.

Becoming emotional, Mr Kinsella said: “This is personal for me. I’m 27 years doing this .

The raiders are seen inside the building trying to disable an alarm. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22
The raiders are seen inside the building trying to disable an alarm. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22

“ I love working with the kids. we’ve helped over 20,000 kids, and the first thing that flashed in front of me was all the kids I’ve helped, and all the little angels that have left us now.”

He continued: “Do I really need to be doing this anymore? Everything you see here is magical and a lot of it is hand-painted so I cant replace it. It’s like Disney. ”

“It’s hard to believe. It’s heartbreaking,” Ms Brolly said.

Ciara Brolly at the rear fence where robbers used an angle grinder to cut through it. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22
Ciara Brolly at the rear fence where robbers used an angle grinder to cut through it. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22

“The only way you can lift yourself up a bit is to get on with things, and that’s what we did this morning. We had a Halloween camp and we have the Garda Commissioner coming on Thursday to commission ten little gardaí,” she added.

“We are saying to hell with (the robbers), and we are going to get on with it. That lifts you a bit, but it’s the funds, the money . . . The part of the building they came in through, it’s going to be a huge cost (to repair),” she explained.

Mr Kinsella said despite the ordeal he would not give up.

“We will build up again and I know the community will help us out. You can’t give up because the next time you get another dream for a little kid that is terminally ill, you just get a good buzz that they are contacting you to make their dream come true, and you move on - but, it’s different now, you are looking over your shoulder now,” he added.

‘Nothing sacred’

“There’s nothing sacred anymore.”

“If they want to go in to (rob) a place, they are not worried about cameras, alarm systems. They don’t care, because they have it down to few minutes by the time anybody comes and they get in and get on with it.”

“The biggest fear I have is that Ciara came down (on her own) and it frightened the life out of me, because if she had walked in (during the raid), there was one guy wielding a big axe around the place breaking everything.”

“The people who put up the fence came and they are shocked. It’s supposed to be bullet proof - they couldn’t believe they went to the extremes they went to, to get into the place,” he said.

A Garda spokesman said: “gardaí in Henry street are investigating a burglary at a premises in Rhebogue, Dublin Road, Limerick, that occurred between 3am and 4.30am in which a sum of money was taken.”

Gardaí are appealing for witnesses to contact Henry Street Garda station on (061) 212 400.