Thursday, 2 November 2017

THE community of Strabane and further afield have been left horrified by a weekend of criminality and thuggery.

In the most sickening incident, much-loved and highly-respected centenarian, Pat Gillespie, was robbed by callous thugs in his Railway Street home.

Three masked men burst into his home on Friday night and subjected Mr Gillespie to a terrifying ordeal, ripping off his panic alarm before making off with a sum of money.

The hunt is on for the intruders with local businessmen joining forces to offer a cash reward for anyone with information leading to the apprehension of the culprits.

Although left shocked and shaken by the terrifying ordeal the local man - who lives alone - has bravely vowed not to let the terror he endured break his indomitable spirit.

There has also been a spate of separate anti-social behaviour incidents in recent days involving young people with the latest incident being a break-in at Glen Fresh Foods on Monday night.


A gang of young people targeted the premises looking for bonfire pallets however they left a trail of destruction when they smashed windows and targeted vehicles.

On Sunday night, there were three separate deliberate fires across the town. A fire raged at the former Adria site while arsonists also torched pallets to the rear of Poundland causing smoke damage to the shop. A Halloween sculpture for children at 'The Tinnies' site was also destroyed by fire.

Over the weekend, there were further reports of youths causing a nuisance with fireworks and reportedly throwing eggs at the windows of homes.

Meanwhile, in Donemana vandals have targeted a local church twice causing damage to skylights and the roof tiles of an adjoining property.

The incidents have caused widespread outrage locally with many taking to social media to vent their disgust and horror.

Sinn Fein says the "mindless acts of a few" should not detract from the 99 per cent of young people in the town who are not involved in such behaviour.

"It almost seems as if hard-core engaged in these anti-community acts thrive on the notoriety these acts bring and are done to impress their peers as to 'how mad' they are.

"This spike in anti-social behaviour at Halloween each year is not just confined to Strabane but is replicated in urban areas right across Ireland.  There are therefore no quick fix solutions to resolving this societal issue which first and foremost involves issues of parental responsibility or as many would say lack of," councillors Karina Carlin and Brian McMahon said in a joint statement yesterday (Tuesday).


Meanwhile, local MLA Daniel McCrossan, claims anti-social behaviour in the town is "out of control" and he is due to meet with senior PSNI officiers this morning (Wednesday)

He said: "Thugs routinely vandalise and destroy local amenities and have now set their sights on businesses and civic art. On Sunday night there were three separate fires in the town at one time.

"They have targeted local businesses and Halloween displays. The display at 'the Tinnies' in particular was set alight. Those who set out to destroy public property for absolutely no reason need to be taken under control by the PSNI."

The SDLP man continued: "This comes after local hero, Pat Gillespie, was robbed. If there's no respect for a 101-year old legend in the town, how can others feel safe?

"Local people are furious and many feel vulnerable. I am now seeking an urgent meeting with the PSNI to find out exactly what they are doing to tackle this issue and to encourage a more proactive response."


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