Life support

Bachelor (73) on life support after ‘vicious and cowardly’ assault by burglars at Co Sligo home

An elderly man who lives alone is on life support and seriously ill in hospital after he was the victim of a ‘vicious and cowardly’ assault by ‘heartless’ burglars who targeted him at home.

Tom Niland (73) was forced to crawl, badly injured, from his home in Skreen, Co Sligo, to a nearby roadside in the hope that passing motorists would see him and come to his aid. A very small sum of money was stolen by his attackers and Mr. Niland was seriously injured in the head and body.

His shoelaces appear to have been tied together by the gang to limit his mobility and he suffered facial fractures around his eye.

The attack took place on Tuesday January 18 and gardaí believe Mr Niland, a bachelor, was at home watching television around 7pm when he showed up at the door to answer a caller. As he opened the front door, three masked men burst into his house, subjecting him to serious assault.

The three-man gang had overturned their car in the driveway of Mr Niland’s house and after searching his house and finding a small amount of cash, they drove off, leaving their victim seriously injured. He managed to crawl up the N59 Sligo to Ballina road past his house in a bid to get help as neighbors spotted him and called gardaí.

Mr Niland was taken to Sligo University Hospital and was able to speak to gardaí in the days that followed, giving them information about the attack. However, since then his condition has worsened to the point that he is now on life support in hospital.

On Sunday, the Sligo gardaí called on members of the public to come forward and share information that could catch the men who robbed and assaulted Mr Niland.

Superintendent Mandy Gaynor of Sligo Garda station said ‘nothing would be left to chance’ in the investigation into the attack, but she also believed members of the public had important information to share with detectives.

“There are people who know who was involved in this aggravated burglary and serious assault on an elderly man in his home,” she said. “Thomas Niland and his family deserve to have those criminals who committed this heartless act brought to justice.”

Superintendent Gaynor added that Mr Niland was a law-abiding person living his life when he was attacked in a ‘callous and cowardly’ burglary involving violence. When Mr Niland answered a caller he was ‘immediately and violently assaulted and a small sum of money was stolen’.

Gardaí believe three masked thieves entered Mr Niland’s house, although they have not ruled out the possibility that at least one other gang member remained in the car which had been overturned in the driveway to ensure a quick escape.

On the night of the attack, when the alarm was raised, local gardaí immediately erected checkpoints and house-to-house surveys were carried out. The crime scene was also examined by the Garda Technical Office and CCTV footage was collected.

However, Gardaí also believe that people driving in the area, particularly on the Sligo-Ballina road, between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the day of the attack, may have dash cam footage which could help the ‘investigation. A Garda liaison officer has been appointed to Mr Niland’s family and has continued to support them as the full-scale criminal investigation into the attack continues.

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