Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Robbers' threat to burn me alive

Terror of off-licence boss who was doused in petrol

Elizabeth Skelly and her daughter, Clare Skelly who live next door to the targeted Off Licence on the Springfield Road

The manager of an off-licence who was doused in petrol by armed robbers today spoke of his terror at the moment the thugs threatened to burn him alive.

The Belfast man, who did not want to be identified, said he believed his two attackers would set him on fire after they beat him in the face with a handgun when he refused to hand over cash.

The robbers happened at C Gees Off Licence on the city's Springfield Road early yesterday as staff opened the premises.

It is the latest in a long line of robberies at the west Belfast off licence but the manager today told the Belfast Telegraph that yesterday morning's incident was the most serious to date.

"I was opening up and just as I got in the door two guys pushed me in," he said.

"I opened one safe and when I wouldn't open the second one they poured petrol over me. They said they were going to set me on fire and I believed them."

The man, who is in his early 30s, was struck several times during the incident and he had cuts on his face this morning as he recounted the sinister attack.

"It's getting worse," he said.

"This has happened to me a couple of times before.

"About six months ago robbers came in and took drink, cigarettes and my mobile and car."

Despite the terrifying threats made against him he has returned to work.

"I'm better today than I was yesterday but it definitely makes you think twice about coming in to work.

"If anyone knows who did this they should come forward and get the people off the streets. They were fully grown men, not kids, and this is the worst robbery we've had."

Elizabeth Skelly who lives in the adjoining house said she is distressed by the relentless series robberies that have been carried out on the premises.

Late last year thieves smashed a vehicle into the shop's front wall and window.

Steel pillars were later erected in front of the building to protect it from a repeat raid. The interior of the off-licence has also been modified as a result of thefts with all goods kept behind a counter and there at least three security cameras inside the shop.

However, the measures did not deter the violent robbers yesterday and Mrs Skelly said: "I am fed up with it. When they rammed it they were nearly in my hall door.

"I don't know what they can do about it short of turning it into a fortress."

West Belfast Assembly man Alex Attwood described the robbery as "one of the most sinister, we have heard of lately".

He continued: "These individuals have to be captured because they clearly seemed to stop at nothing to perpetrate this crime."

SDLP Lower Falls representative Margaret Walsh also condemned the attack and appealed for the community to work together to bring the robbers to justice.

"The SDLP will be talking to the police to ensure that every step is taken to catch these men," she said.

The robber with the handgun is described as being in his 30s, of stocky build with a shaved head. He had fair-coloured stubble, a goatee beard and wore a black rain-type jacket, blue jeans and white trainers.

The robber with the hammer also aged in his 30s, wore a blue hooded top with the letters A and C on the front. He, too, wore blue jeans and white trainers.

Anyone with information about the robbery can contact detectives on 0845 6008000 or freephone Crimestoppers in complete confidence on 0800 555111.

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