Single gang targeting elderly in raids across Northern Ireland
Vulnerable pensioners across Northern Ireland are being targeted by a criminal gang who have decided they are easy targets, according to a member of the Policing Board.
The news comes as the son of an elderly woman who was held hostage and her home ransacked by four masked burglars hit out at the "low-lifes" behind the crime that left his mother terrified.
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig told the Belfast Telegraph there was a pattern of these gang attacks on pensioners all over the province.
"The PSNI believes there is one criminal gang targeting the elderly," the DUP MLA said.
"These criminals now believe that the elderly are not only a soft target, but a valuable target,
"They reckon there is a better return for less risk and trouble in targeting pensioners.
"We have to get the message out that people should not keep valuables at home. I hope and pray that the PSNI gets to the bottom of this spate of attacks quickly and that arrests soon follow."
Mr Craig's worrying revelation came after the four masked thugs held the elderly woman hostage and ransacked her north Belfast bungalow in a search for drugs.
The attack, which police are describing as an "aggravated burglary", took place in Downview Mews, a quiet cul de sac, on Wednesday evening.
When the Belfast Telegraph called to the victim's home, the elderly lady - who is in her 70s - was still too shaken and upset to speak.
But her son blasted the culprits as "low-lifes".
He revealed one of the thugs held his mother in a room while accomplices tore her neat little home apart.
"When I got there the place was like something you'd see in EastEnders or in a film," he said.
"The house had been trashed - turned upside down."
He had raced to be with his mother as soon as he heard about the burglary, and has stayed with her since to help her recover from her nightmare ordeal at the hands of the burglary gang.
"They told mum a story about looking for drugs, but anyone could see in a moment that this was a pensioner's home, not a drug den," he said, adding that it was the first time anything like this had happened to his mother, and that she would take some time to get over the trauma of it.
"She's a brave woman, but this was seriously scary stuff," he said.
"The people behind this kind of thing need to take a serious look at themselves, take a look at their lives.
"What if the elderly person they were targeting had medical condition and had a heart attack?
"It's not just about the money they steal, it's about the fear they bring and the psychological damage they cause."
It was one of two similar attacks carried out within a few hours. The second happened later at Ballygowan, Co Down, when four masked men forced their way into the house of a man in his 80s. It's believed they were armed and made off with a sum of money.