GARDAÍ in West Cork are urging older people to take greater safety precautions after a woman in her 70s was assaulted at her home in Schull.
It is understood that the woman, who is not originally from the area, but has been living locally for many years, was struck by burglars after she walked in on the two men ransacking her belongings in a caravan at Lowertown, Schull, shortly after noon last Saturday week (August 17th).
West Cork’s crime prevention officer Sgt James O’Donovan said initial enquiries suggested that these are ‘mobile’ criminals, and not from the Schull area.
Bantry-based Supt Declan O’Sullivan confirmed that the offence is ‘highly unusual in this area’ and said: ‘We have a full investigation team on it.
The scene has been forensically examined and we have carried out extensive house-to-house enquiries.
‘We are trawling all the available CCTV in the area, and we have also received great assistance from the public,’ said the Supt, who expressed the gardaí’s determination to ‘bring this investigation to a successful conclusion.’
Supt O’Sullivan described the actual assault as being of ‘a minor nature’ but he said an ambulance was called as a precaution.
Sgt O’Donovan warned of criminals ‘coming into West Cork’ and carrying out crimes and he, too, appealed to locals and tourists to provide the gardaí with as much assistance as possible in identifying the suspects.
‘It is a difficult time of the year to be asking people for assistance with regard to strangers in the area, because there are a lot of tourists around,’ he said, ‘but if anyone saw something out of the ordinary we would ask them to contact us at Bantry Garda Station on 027 20860 or at Schull Garda Station on 028 28111.
‘No matter how insignificant they think the information might be, it should be passed on to us and we will carry out our enquiries.’ The crime prevention officer advised people, particularly the elderly, to be wary of people calling to their doors unannounced.
He urged them to install proper crime prevention door locks and chains, and added: ‘If anyone is not happy with people calling to their house, they would be advised not to open the door, or to engage in conversation, and anyone with any doubts can contact the gardaí.’
For operational reasons, the gardaí are not revealing too many details about the incident, but the sergeant did confirm: ‘Our initial enquiries would suggest that these are mobile criminals and are not from the area, so they should stand out more.’
Responding to the events of the weekend, local TD Michael Collins, who is secretary of Schull and District Community Alert, said: ‘There is a tremendous sense of shock in the community. A burglary is alarming in an area that is quite relaxed, but the assault on an elderly woman is outrageous.
‘The community alert team and members of the community are working closely with the gardaí to piece together the events of the day,’ said the independent TD. ‘We have also contacted Muintir na Tire to help promote the need for greater home security.’
Others expressed their sense of outrage on social media. On The Southern Star’s Facebook page, Ann Marie De Die expressed her dismay, saying: ‘It is shocking that this would happen in a safe, tightknit community like Schull.’ Con O’Sullivan posted that the incident is ‘not far away from another Padraig Nally incident in rural Ireland’ – a reference to the Mayo farmer who shot a trespasser.
Calling for justice, another woman, Eileen Geraghty, said: ‘No mercy should be shown or given to these brazen culprits, or anybody who intrudes and attacks people, especially elderly people in their own homes.’ Gerardine Kingston expressed the palpable sense of concern throughout the entire community when she said: ‘The poor woman. I hope she will be ok.’