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Newtownabbey man tells of his shock after discovering hooded intruder in his house

By Jonathan Bell

A father has spoken of the shock at finding an intruder casually strolling through his home while he worked away in his living room in the early hours of New Year's Eve.

The terrifying incident was just one in a spate of break-ins over the holiday period.

Barrie Cooper, a 41-year-old civil servant was working on his computer in the living room of his Newtownabbey home, preparing entertainment for a New Year's Eve celebration for an addiction support group, when he heard a rustling sound in his kitchen.

Thinking it was his six-year-old daughter, who had just moments earlier been in the kitchen to get a drink, or his wife, he got up to investigate only to discover a tall hooded man in his conservatory.

"I had no idea what was going on," the father of three told the Belfast Telegraph from his home just after forensic officers combed the scene for evidence.

"I was totally confused. You think you have the time to plan and do something but until he ran it didn't even cross my mind he would be trying to break in. I was convinced there was an innocent explanation and didn't think I should be protecting myself or my family."

It was only when the man spotted the resident that he took off "bounding" over a fence to escape. Mr Cooper gave chase.

"It was only when I saw the light go on my car that I realised he had taken the keys," continued Mr Cooper, an amateur mechanic who has spent many hours maintaining his car.

"I would have been gutted had he taken my car," he added.

The man then threw the keys back at the resident before making his escape.

"It's a real wake-up call," added the father of three children, aged eight, six and eight months.

"I had not gone to bed and was preparing food in the kitchen. Windows were open and so was the back door - which is where he got in.

"You just never think someone will try something like that when you are up.

"I was working away in the corner of our living room on the computer and I am convinced he was in the room with me and was trying to get out quietly.

"We are fortunate nothing was taken and no one was hurt.

"We can assess our security and maybe be a bit more vigilant. I believe had there been a security light in the back it would have scared him off - I don't think he was looking a confrontation.

"It's scary to think someone was in your house, it really is the last thing you suspect. My wife is very upset and I can't get over that our daughter had just been in the room moments earlier.

He added: "The police were on the ball though. While I was on the phone to them a car flew up the road with its lights on, so credit to them."

Police recorded a number of similar incidents in the Newtownabbey area in the early hours of Sunday.

In one, a woman in her 70s scared off a man who tried to take her car from her Doagh Road home.

She went out and got into the car's passenger seat as the man tried to make his escape, sustaining minor injuries. Another man discovered someone in his Forthill Gardens house before he fled the scene empty-handed.

Police on Sunday arrested a 31-year-old man. He remained in police custody.

Meanwhile, police have arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of a number of robbery offences after a search operation in Carrickfergus on Saturday night.

The arrest was in connection with an armed robbery at a shop in Oakland Park in Carrick on December 28, an armed robbery at a shop in Ballynure on December 26, and another at a shop in Glynn on Christmas Eve.

The man remains in custody.

Elsewhere, detectives are appealing for information following five burglaries at homes in Warrenpoint, Rostrevor, Kilkeel and Mayobridge were targeted by thieves.

PSNI Detective Sergeant James Johnston said: "Three males were disturbed in two burglaries, which occurred in Warrenpoint and Mayobridge on the evening of December 29 and may have been sighted at other locations in the areas of Kilkeel and Rostrevor that same evening.

"We are investigating a possible link between these incidents and would like to hear from anyone with information.

"We are particularly keen to hear from anyone who may have noticed three males or any vehicles acting suspiciously in these areas on Friday December 29. Please call 101, quoting reference number 991 29/12/17, should you have any information."

Belfast Telegraph

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