Inquiry into New Age man's death

 

The scenic townland of Bohey, six miles outside Manorhamilton, in Co Leitrim, took on a surreal look yesterday. Amid the comings and goings of barefoot inhabitants and their dogs, chickens and cats at the local New Age traveller camp were white-suited Garda Technical Bureau members and unmarked Garda cars, there to investigate the death of Mr Elliot Robertson at Sligo General Hospital on Tuesday morning from injuries he is believed to have sustained from an assault on Monday night.

Scots-born Mr Robertson (24) was a member of the New Age community that has a camp in the Bohey area. A post-mortem was conducted by the Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Maire Cassidy, on Tuesday night.

The camp is situated on Benboe mountain with the Ben Bulben range on the opposite side. An estimated 40 New Age travellers live in the area.

In front of the cordoned-off Garda investigation area yesterday were two brightly painted caravans, their occupants peering out intermittently to assess the latest arrivals. Curious locals had also come along to have a look.

A barefoot woman with an English accent shook her head and politely declined to comment on what had happened. Rumours that the inhabitants of the camp had fled the scene following the death are unfounded.

Most of the group has been here for four years. The camp has attracted New Age travellers mainly from England, but also from Scotland, Wales, Belfast and Dublin. Many sign on the dole in Manorhamilton and generally get on with their own lives, not bothering anybody. Few locals seem to have problems with them. Leitrim has become an attractive place for New Age travellers. They fall into two categories: those who came to the county, bought old houses and generally integrated into the community and send their children to school; and the group at Bohey.

These are described as people who come and go on a regular basis. For years the camp seems to have posed no problems for gardai or locals, but what some have described as an unsavoury element arrived more recently.

Signs point to the various scenic spots in the area and one indicates the location of a historic cooking site, attributed to the fianna, while across the road large rugs are spread around a makeshift outdoor fireplace.

The sparsely inhabited side of the place may have attracted the New Agers: there are only a handful of houses in the area.

"They have brains to burn. They are always stuck in books, even the youngest children. If they ever went to town they would give me a shout and ask me if I wanted anything," a local man, Mr Tom McMorrow, said, adding that they had never done him any harm.

Despite this week's violent events the travellers say they are determined to stay.