Belfast priest Peter Carlin left traumatised after thugs raid home at gunpoint
A priest has been left traumatised after being held hostage by armed robbers as they ransacked the parochial house at St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast.
The armed thugs took the priest prisoner as they carried out their looting of the religious home at around 9.30pm on Monday night, before making off with a sum of money.
The shocked priest was named locally as Fr Peter Carlin, who had only recently come to St Peter's.
Church spokesman Fr Edward McGee said the priest had been threatened with a firearm.
He said: "The priest has been left very distressed and traumatised by this experience. The level of organisation and aggression perpetrated by these robbers is particularly disturbing and deeply concerning.
"The priest is recovering and has received many messages of support from parishioners, clergy and the local community. He is assisting the PSNI with their investigations."
Before leaving, the robbers locked Fr Carlin in a room from which he finally managed to escape at around 10am yesterday morning.
He raised the alarm and the PSNI were then called to the scene.
Fr McGee called on anyone who has information in relation to the incident to bring it to the attention of detectives at Musgrave PSNI Station.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh was shocked at the robbery.
He said: "This crime marks a new low. To be robbed is bad enough, but to be robbed and held hostage in your own home while it is ransacked must have been a particularly terrifying experience."
West Belfast SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the armed robbery was "a terrible incident".
"To invade a home, ransack and steal and then lock up the householder, are acts that should be condemned.
"To do so in a church setting makes the crimes all the worse.
"Anyone with any information should bring it to the police to apprehend the perpetrators."
Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Fra McCann said the attack and robbery were "an absolute disgrace".
"This despicable act highlights the type of society we now live in.
"I understand that those involved were not local to this community, with strong Irish brogues and may have travelled some distance to carry out the attack.
"The purpose is to put fear into the victim, in this case a local priest whose only mission in life is to look after the spiritual and physical wellbeing of people who live in the community."
Detective Constable Pauline McCalmont appealed to anyone who has any information about the incident to contact detectives at Musgrave on 101 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Fr Carlin's hostage nightmare comes just days after armed thieves robbed two Omagh priests after breaking into their homes.