Belfast Telegraph

Fury as old and disabled attacked

By Rebecca Petticrew

Two vulnerable men have been targeted in separate incidents in Bangor which have "shocked" and "outraged" the local community.

On Monday night (November 11), shortly before 8pm, five unknown men forced their way into an elderly man's home on Ballyhalbert Gardens in the Kilcooley estate.

The man, believed to be in his 90s, was forced into the living room while the men searched the house before making off with a sum of money.

Police said although uninjured during the incident, the elderly man was left "badly shaken" by his ordeal.

Community worker Mark Gordon said local people are "outraged" at the incident.

"The community will respond; a number of people will get together and decide how to promote community safety and make people more vigilant and aware that this is happening," he explained.

"There's a really good sense of community and local people want to know what's going to be done about it.

"There was a similar incident a few weeks ago where an elderly couple left their home and in the short period of time that they were out their house was burgled and a sum of money was stolen, so this is not the first incident of its type."

Mr Gordon said increasing police patrols in the area may not be the solution to the problem: "These are opportunistic type incidents, so unless you're going to have police all over the estate that's unlikely," he said.

"And the fact is there isn't such a good working relationship with police at the moment in light of previous difficulties," he added.

Two days earlier on Saturday afternoon, November 9, a blind man was assaulted in Castle Park Avenue.

The man, who had his guide dog with him at the time of the attack, was punched in the chest by an unknown man following a minor altercation with the man's wife.

The assailant then walked away and when the blind man followed his attacker he was punched in the chest for a second time.

Local politicians condemned the attack. Ulster Unionist North Down MLA Leslie Cree said: "Like all other right-thinking people, I was absolutely shocked to learn that a blind man was assaulted.

"The fact that the gentleman who was assaulted had a guide dog with him would have left the perpetrator in no doubt that this gentleman was registered blind.

Calling the attack "disgraceful and cowardly", he appealed for anyone with information to contact police so the person responsible can be "caught and punished".

Alex Easton MLA said:"This makes me sick to the pit of my stomach that anyone could assault a partially sighted man with a guide dog in broad daylight in the centre of our town.

Describing the perpetrator as "sick", he added: "I would appeal to the general public who were shopping in Bangor town centre who witnessed the incident to come forward to the PSNI so that the perpetrator can be taken of our streets and brought before the courts and given a very stiff sentence."

Police are keen to speak to anyone with any information about either incident on 0845 600 8000 or anonymously through independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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