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Deaf unit at school is ransacked and robbed by burglar

By Deborah McAleese and David Young

Published 20/02/2016

'Computer equipment and iPads were stolen, desks were overturned and children's artwork was ripped from the walls'
'Computer equipment and iPads were stolen, desks were overturned and children's artwork was ripped from the walls'

A heartless thief trashed a specialist unit for hearing-impaired children during a break-in at an east Belfast primary school.

Staff at Cregagh Primary School were described as "downhearted and upset" after the break-in was discovered yesterday morning.

Computer equipment and iPads were stolen, desks were overturned and children's artwork was ripped from the walls.

The thief also stole money pupils had saved to go on an educational visit to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

School principal David Heggarty said last night: "The classrooms were pretty well ransacked, pretty shook up, but the thing that upset most of the staff in particular was that one of the iPads stolen was a special-needs iPad, provided for the particular use of a little deaf girl."

The local community has already begun to rally round, according to Mr Heggarty.

"I've had several offers already today from several groups in the community to help, and there are already people gathering up money to replace this little girl's iPad as quickly as possible," he said. Describing the reaction, Mr Heggarty added: "The most recurring word used to me has been 'disgust'. People I've been speaking to just cannot believe what's happened.

"The Cregagh estate is a quiet, close-knit community, and people are very supportive of the school. Everyone, from the local newsagent to the local churches and councillor, have all been on the phone or have called in -they're all disgusted at what has happened."

Local DUP councillor Tommy Sandford, who serves on the school's board of governors, said: "The CCTV captured one person climbing into the school. He broke windows at the back, damaging them getting in.

"Laptops and iPads were stolen. One of the iPads belonged to a wee deaf girl, so that's holding her back with her education.

"It's ridiculous. I condemn this crime and I'm calling on people that if they know or hear of anything about this break-in to get in touch with the police immediately. Whoever did this has to be apprehended right away".

It is the first time that the school has been broken into.

"The staff have been really upset by what has happened," Mr Sandford said. "And the community is really up in arms about this.

"This is one of the finest schools going - and the community holds the school very close to their hearts."

A PSNI spokesman said it was appealing for information about the break-in.

Chief Inspector David Moore added: "Three Dell laptops and three iPads, some of which were used by children with impaired hearing, and a small sum of money was stolen.

"Anyone with information regarding this incident, or who saw any suspicious activity in the area of Cregagh Primary School, on Mount Merrion Avenue on Thursday evening into the early hours of yesterday morning, should contact police on the non-emergency number 101, or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

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