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Belfast man robbed of race winnings just yards from police chief leaving crime meeting

By Suzanne Breen

Published 20/06/2016

Chief Inspector Robert Murdie
Chief Inspector Robert Murdie

A man was mugged on a Belfast street under the nose of one of the city's most senior police officers.

Chief Inspector Robert Murdie had just stepped out onto the Ormeau Road after a meeting to discuss crime in the area, as a Romanian man was robbed of his bookies winnings around 30 yards away.

The PSNI area commander for South Belfast had been meeting local MP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, to discuss flags, drugs and crime in the neighbourhood.

The SDLP politician was walking the top policeman to the door of his constituency office after their discussion when they were confronted by the incident at 1.50pm on June 10.

Two local men fled the scene as their victim lay injured on the ground. Eyewitnesses said the middle-aged Romanian man was leaving Sean Graham's bookmakers with around £500 in winnings when the muggers struck.

They jumped on him, wrestled him to the ground, and repeatedly smashed his head off the pavement, according to witnesses. Dr McDonnell said: "This was a scandalous attack by two local hoods on a man leaving the bookies, happy with the good fortune that saw him win a few pounds.

"Chief Inspector Murdie and myself did all we could to help.

"He was on the ball immediately, ringing for assistance, and uniformed officers arrived speedily on the scene. I went to give medical aid to the injured man.

"He was lying on the ground, having been very badly assaulted.

"He was clearly confused and concussed. He took a terrible thumping.

"When he got up, he didn't even know where he was."

One witness said the Romanian man's head was slammed into the ground so often she thought his assailants had wanted to kill him.

Dr McDonnell said he hoped the muggers would be caught quickly.

"Not only did these thugs steal the few pounds that this poor man had won but they were callously and brutally violent in the process," he added.

A friend of the victim, and family members, arrived outside the bookies immediately after the attack.

"Around 20 Romanians surrounded him.

"It was very difficult for me to communicate with the man who had little English but a 12-year-old schoolboy was able to translate for us and that was a big help," the MP said.

The PSNI has appealed for anyone who witnessed the mugging to come forward and help with their enquiries.

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