Cars looted outside church as kids put on carol service
Shameless thieves who broke into vehicles parked at a church for a primary school carol service have been condemned as "the lowest of the low".
The children of Markethill Primary School were singing for around 260 parents, teachers and school governors at St John's Parish Church in Mullaghbrack, close to Armagh, on Thursday night.
Between 7pm and 8pm the cars of five parents had their windows smashed, with some items being taken.
Markethill Primary's principal Jim Richardson said it had been deeply upsetting for the children.
"It put the dampeners on things quite a bit, I waited with the parents till police arrived. They (the thieves) came right up to the road outside the church, so they're quite bold in their approach," he said.
"The parents were shaken up and the children were upset as well.
"It was a lovely festive evening that a lot of preparation had gone into, that's what makes it more annoying, for it to end in this manner."
Addressing those responsible, Mr Richardson added: "We're completely mystified as to why they would want to do this, as what was taken had little value.
"They should stop and reflect on their actions. It does have a profound effect on the experience of young children. That's how they'll remember the evening."
The Rev Canon Neville Hughes of St John's Parish said there had been an increase in anti-social behaviour locally.
"We had a great carol service, the church was packed with parents and children and it's very disappointing for that to happen," he said.
"What can you say, there's actually been a spate of vandalism in this area, with people's bins being taken and trailed round the streets. There just seems to be an upshoot of wanton vandalism in the area."
Rev Hughes said the families were unlikely to get compensation for the damage.
"The parents are going to face a lot of expense now with their cars, which I will presume their insurance won't cover, and just coming up to Christmas.
"It's part of the age we live in, unfortunately."
William Irwin, a DUP MLA for Newry and Armagh, called the thieves "the lowest of the low."
"I totally condemn this mindless act of thuggery and criminality perpetrated when children, parents and parishioners were enjoying a beautiful carol service at the church," he said.
"This incident was carried out by the lowest of the low and I would urge anyone with any information or saw anything suspicious in the area of the church yesterday evening to report it immediately to the police."
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Speers added: "I am totally disgusted at the lowlife thieves who broke into cars at Mullaghbrack Church while a local primary school was holding its Christmas carol service.
"It is abhorrent that anyone could stoop so low."