Belfast Telegraph

Portadown double murder: Worried residents urge hospital to step up security

By Victoria Leonard

On a sleepy Sunday afternoon with the sun beating down, Upper Ramone Park appears to embody the suburban idyll.

The leafy, affluent area is tranquil, with dog walkers coming and going and groups of children playing in their gardens.

The quiet neighbourhood, situated close to two primary schools, is popular both with families and retirees keen to enjoy the relaxed pace of life.

Only the sound of the police tape flickering in the wind breaks the silence, and belies the horror which visited this tight-knit community on Friday.

Resident Margaret Thornbury, who has lived in the area for nearly two decades, returned from holiday in Krakow yesterday morning to find the area just metres from her front door cordoned off by police officers.

Sitting in the well-kept front room of her home overlooking the police cordon, the local woman said she felt "unsafe" in her own home after the shocking incident.

"An attack on an elderly couple is horrendous at any time, but for such a brutal murder to happen is disturbing," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I believe that the Craigavon Area Hospital needs to step up security. There have been patients who have escaped before - it happens a couple of times a year and we only know when the helicopter is out and overhead.

"There is a gate which leads onto the pathway at the back of our houses which is never locked. It makes me feel very unhappy - it could have been any one of us, it is so frightening.

"We didn't see the couple who were murdered that often, they were quite quiet and kept themselves to themselves.

"They seemed very polite and reserved and we were just so shocked at what happened, especially as it occurred so close to our home.

"The police have said they are going to be here for the next few days to maintain a presence, which I feel is reassuring."

Mum Ruth Charles described the horror incident as "surreal" and said that she and other parents would not permit their kids to walk along the footpath which connected their house and Craigavon Area Hospital. "I wouldn't let my nine-year-old son go out on his own, and the other parents at the primary school wouldn't let their kids walk down the path at the back of our houses which borders the hospital - no way," she said.

"Things need to change here - you can see the police helicopter going up all the time, and you know that it is because a patient has escaped from the hospital.

"This is a very close community, we are all here for each other if someone needs something.

"It's horrendous that such a brutal attack could happen on our doorstep."

Local man Alan Robinson, who was walking his dog, said that many people were reviewing their security due to the attack.

"I think that the gate at the back of hospital which leads to the path bordering the residential area needs to be closed and better security measures introduced," he said.

"This is the kind of area where people don't lock their doors, they are in and out, but now they are saying that they will have to start locking their doors. The viciousness of this attack is crazy."

Another elderly neighbour who did not wish to be named, said she was "devastated" at the incident.

"They were a lovely couple, and I'm very sad for all concerned," she said.

"We have lived here since the Seventies and we are all good neighbours here. It makes you feel a bit uneasy, it's dreadful.

"I could have been out gardening and I would always walk down the path at the back of the houses. You hear of things happening elsewhere, but when it happens in your area it really brings it home."

While the police cordon may come down in a few days, it is evident that it will take much longer for this peaceful community to come to terms with the violence which has s hattered its collective peace of mind and sense of security.

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