Newtownabbey elderly couple left terrified as thugs ransack their home
A frail elderly couple in their 70s are living in fear after three thugs ransacked their home and left them traumatised.
The gang forced their way into the couple's home and ordered them to stay in their living room while the house was ransacked.
Police do not yet know if anything was taken during the burglary at 8.30pm on Wednesday.
The couple have lived in the same terraced house in Newtownabbey's Rush Park estate for more than half-a-century.
Last night, the elderly victim was still visibly distressed by his ordeal.
"My wife was with me - and she is still in shock," he said.
"Nothing like this has ever happened to us before.
"We've lived here for 54 years, and this has always been a very quiet area."
His voice trembling as he waited for CID officers to call, the victim asked not be identified.
Just a few miles away from the Rush Park attack, a man in his 60s was robbed after thieves broke into his home in Ballysavage Road, near Parkgate village.
The gang are believed to have used a vehicle to force electric gates at the home of a man in his 60s.
They then made their way into the house and while one intruder held their victim down in bed, an accomplice searched the bedroom.
The pair made off with a safe and the keys to the victim's car. Police said that the vehicle was not taken. Detective Inspector Chris Millar said the two incidents were being treated as "two separate and distinct burglaries" and he did not believe there was a connection between the crimes.
The Newtownabbey attacks lend weight to claims by Policing Board member Jonathan Craig that burglars are targeting pensioners because they are seen as "easy prey".
He warned that both individual burglars and criminal gangs were targeting older people.
"It is reprehensible that they see older people as easy prey or easy targets. That is something that we are not going to take sitting down.
"An action plan has been drawn up by the police on how to tackle this.
"The police are very actively working on catching those responsible and reducing this type of crime," the DUP MLA said.
He added: "We need to do more to raise awareness of home security measures. These types of crimes are terrifying for the victims."
At the weekend a gang of masked men broke into the home of an 83-year-old woman in Magherafelt and took her wedding ring from her hand.
The woman was in her bedroom when four men broke into her house in the Queen's Avenue area on Friday evening.
Two of the men plundered the house while the other two held the pensioner in her bedroom. They left with her wedding ring and other items of jewellery.
Days earlier in east Belfast a woman in her 80s was confronted by a gang of four masked men in her bedroom. The gang broke into the house by removing the kitchen window of her home in the Orangefield area.
The woman said she was left terrified.
"Finding them in your bedroom is horrible - a terrible experience," the woman said. "They were wearing scarves and hats over their faces."
One of the woman's neighbours said there had been a noticeable increase in burglaries and bogus callers in the area in the past year, estimating "between 12 and 15" incidents near his home alone. The recent incidents have led to demands for increased police patrols.
Earlier this month three masked men bound a woman's hands and stole gold rings from her fingers during a burglary at her home in the nearby Grand Parade area.
And just a few weeks earlier, at Dunraven Avenue, four masked men also tried to rob a pensioner in his home.