DETECTIVES in Downpatrick are investigating an aggravated burglary at the home of an elderly couple in Ballynahinch.
At around 8.15pm last night, Monday 20 January, five masked men, one of whom is believed to have been armed with a screwdriver, entered a house at Loughside Drive in the town.
“One of these intruders kept the family in the room while the others began to search the property.
Councillor Billy Walker (DUP) said he was “repulsed” with the burglary. He added: “I just totally condemn this sort of disgraceful behaviour. The sooner these people are apprehended by the police and put behind bars the better.
“The elderly will feel fearful in their homes now. This fear of crime puts them under undue pressure. They have worked all their lives and just want a bit of peace to enjoy themselves. They should not be left in anxiety in their homes. We do need to be talking to the PSNI on this and see what can be done.
“I raised this matter with Down District Counil a couple of years ago – we needed back then, and still do, to lobby Justice Minister David Ford and have these attacks on the elderly be treated seriously and the perpetrators receiving proper mandatory sentences. There should be no wrap over the wrists for first time offences etc. They should just go to jail if convicted. Our elederly should be able to live in peace.”
SDLP councillors in Ballynahinch have also condemned the masked gang of five men who subjected a family, including two elderly pensioners, to a “terrifying ordeal” when they burgled their home, describing it as “despicable and cowardly”.
Cllr Maria McCarthy, who is Down District Council Chairman, offered her sympathies to the family.
Cllr McCarthy said: “This is an awful thing to happen to this family, and my heartfelt sympathies are with them. I can only imagine how terrifying this whole ordeal must have been for them. I sincerely hope that those responsible will be apprehended without delay and made amenable to the full weight of the law. I would encourage anyone with information on this heinous crime to make it known to the PSNI without delay.”
Cllr Anne McAleenan said: “We know the family very well and we visited them as soon as we heard what happened. They have been left badly shaken by this and have not slept all night. It was absolutely terrifying for them; a frightening ordeal.
“Thankfully they were not physically injured but, still, this has been extremely traumatic for them and it will take some time for them to come to terms with what happened. The woman is very feeble at the minute and the elderly man has a significant disability through a road traffic accident. This is the last thing they needed or deserved.”
Cllr Patsy Toman said: “I was disgusted when I heard what happened, as is the whole community, and I urge the police to make every effort to catch the gang involved in this despicable and cowardly attack on a family that is so well liked and respected in the community.
“This happened in their home, a place where they are supposed to feel safe but, when something like this happens, people feel anything but safe. It also instils fear in the whole community and will continue to do so, until the culprits are caught.”
Sinn Féin election candidate for the Rowallane area, Eddie Hughes, has labeled those responsible for the robbery of an elderly couple in the Ballynahinch area as “cowards”.
Mr.Hughes, who is from the area, said: “I want to express my sympathies to the elderly couple and their family at this time and I know that the local community will rally round and support them at this difficult time.
“This incident has left local residents wary and extremely shocked at the nature of this crime. For five men to rob an elderly and vulnerable couple such as this is nothing short of cowardly.”
“I want to call on anyone with any information to provide it to the relevant authorities, so that these criminals can be apprehended as soon as possible and hopefully giving the affected family some peace of mind.”
The police spokesperson further added on the incident: “Another man in his forties who had been in an upstairs bedroom at the time was then brought downstairs by the intruders and was held with the rest of the family in the rear bedroom.
“After searching the house the gang made off with a sum of cash via an unlocked rear door.
“It’s understood all of the males involved had obscured their faces with scarves and baseball caps and it is believed one of them spoke with an English accent.
“Detectives are keen to hear from witnesses or anyone with any other information regarding this crime. They can be contacted by calling 0845 600 8000.
“Or if someone would prefer to provide information without leaving their name they can contact the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.”