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Appeal after priest held at gunpoint in clergy house

By Angela Rainey

Published 25/07/2016

Plea: Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey
Plea: Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey

Armed thugs who robbed a priest at gunpoint in a chapel in west Belfast at the weekend are still on the loose.

Detectives are appealing for witnesses to the aggravated burglary at St Michael the Archangel on Finaghy Road North at around 7.50pm on Friday.

Two men - one armed with a gun - forced their way into the parochial house and threatened the priest before making off with cash and a set of keys.

They "pushed and shoved" the victim then accidentally triggered a burglar alarm.

They fled moments later but were captured on CCTV.

It is believed the priest had been visiting from Australia and had been residing in west Belfast and although shaken by the ordeal steeled himself to conduct a funeral only hours after.

Detective Sergeant Michael Hawthorn is appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

"Our inquiries are at an early stage, however at this time we believe the pair threatened a priest who was inside the property before fleeing with a sum of money and a set of keys," he said.

"The priest has been left badly shaken by his ordeal and we are appealing for the public's help in identifying the perpetrators of this crime."

Community representatives called the incident "despicable".

Sinn Fein west Belfast MLA Alex Maskey also urged people to bring information forward.

"Along with Sinn Fein councillor Matt Garrett I spoke with the visiting priest just after the burglary and assault took place, as well as staff and PSNI officers and while the priest was shaken up and annoyed, he was in good spirits," he said.

"To his credit, he just wanted to get on with things and to prepare the funeral he was leading on Saturday morning.

"The robbers ransacked the house but there was only a small amount of money to take, so it was hardly worth their while bothering."

He added: "It's not the sort of thing you want going on in your community - it's terrible."

Anyone with information is asked to contact PSNI on 101.

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