Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We must look out for our elderly

There could not be a greater contrast than between the 72-year-old pensioner who died trying to protect his wife and the youth who broke into his home and assaulted him. Pensioner Bertie Acheson epitomised the type of man who is often called the salt of the earth.

He was a devoted family man, a person anyone would be proud to call friend. His assailant was a young thug who preyed on what he regarded as an easy target, an elderly couple. Not content with assaulting Mr Acheson he then went on to rob his defenceless wife as he lay dying.

Anyone who has ever been burgled knows the feeling of violation that the crime leaves in its wake. Normally, of course, it just results in possessions being lost. But occasionally, as in this case, something more precious is taken, a life.

And it is clear from the figures revealed in this newspaper last week that elderly people are often the target of thieves. In the last two years almost 3,000 break-ins have occurred at the homes of elderly people. Shamefully, in only 170 cases have prosecutions followed.

It is self-evident why thieves target the elderly. They know that they can overpower the home occupants. They also believe that elderly people may have a nest egg about the house, having lived a life of thrift. And, if they pay any attention to police statistics, they know that they have little chance of being caught.

But that is not entirely the fault of the police. The PSNI needs help from the community to identify the thieves and certainly in this case, anyone with even the merest scrap of information should forward it immediately to those investigating the death of Mr Acheson.

Attacking the elderly is one of the most heinous crimes on the statute book and there must be no hiding place for those who do so. But prevention is even more effective and communities should look out for the elderly in their midst and be ready to help them if the occasion arises.

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