There are serious concerns for the life of a 73-year-old man who is on life support following a ‘vicious’ assault during a burglary at his home in Skreen, Co Sligo.
Tom Niland was forced to crawl, badly injured, from his home to a nearby roadside in the hope that passing motorists would come to his aid. A small sum of money was stolen by the attackers.
Mr. Niland, who lives alone, 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.
The attack happened on Tuesday, January 18. Gardaí believe Mr Niland was at home watching TV around 7pm when he went to the door to answer a caller. When he opened the door, three masked men burst into his house.
The gang had reversed their car into the driveway of Mr. Niland’s house. They searched the house and found a small sum of money, then left, leaving Mr. Niland seriously injured.
Mr Niland crawled to the N59 Sligo to Ballina road where he was seen by neighbors and the gardaí were alerted. He was taken to Sligo University Hospital and was able to speak to gardaí in the days that followed, describing the attack. However, his condition worsened and he is now on life support.
On Sunday, Gardaí in Sligo called on members of the public to come forward and share information that could catch the men who assaulted Mr Niland.
Superintendent Mandy Gaynor of Sligo Garda station said ‘nothing would be left to chance’ in the investigation, 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 attacked in a ‘ruthless and cowardly’ burglary. When Mr Niland answered a caller he was ‘immediately and violently assaulted and a small sum of money was stolen’.
Gardaí believe the three men entered Mr Niland’s house, but they have not ruled out the possibility that at least one other gang member remained in the car, which had been reversed in the driveway to secure a quick escape.
On the night of the attack, the local gardaí erected checkpoints and house-to-house surveys were carried out. The crime scene was examined by the Garda Technical Office and CCTV footage was collected.
Gardaí believe people driving in the area, particularly on the Sligo-Ballina road between 4pm and 8pm 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 as the investigation continues.