Belfast Telegraph

100-year-old Strabane man tells of terror at hands of robbers

By Leona O'Neill

A 100-year-old great-grandfather has vowed he won't be intimidated by callous thugs who robbed his home.

Pat Gillespie said he will not let the horrific crime get him down and pledged to be back fighting fit and ready to celebrate his 101st birthday in December.

Mr Gillespie, a well-known and much-loved figure in Strabane, endured a horrific ordeal on Friday night when three masked men forced their way into his Railway Street home through a back window.

The gang held him in his chair while they ransacked his bedroom. They made off with a sum of cash, leaving the centenarian shocked and shaken.

Despite the terrifying attack, Mr Gillespie was back at Mass yesterday and visited his wife Eileen's grave, as he does every day.

He has lived by himself since his wife passed away, but has plenty of company from his five children, plus his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Recalling the horrific ordeal, Mr Gillespie told the Belfast Telegraph: "On Friday night I was watching television in the kitchen.

"The door burst open and three men wearing black clothes and balaclavas came in.

"One of them held me down firmly in the chair and the other two went into my bedroom down the hall.

"The man was holding me down so hard I couldn't even move my head. I had to sit there and say nothing.

"They wrecked my bedroom looking for money. They pulled out all the drawers, threw things everywhere, they even threw the mattress and blankets on the floor, but there was nothing there.

"Whatever little money I had, I had it in my trouser pocket.

"They were in my house for around 10 minutes and they never said a word to me. I didn't know what to do. If I moved my head the man pushed it back again.

"When they didn't get any money in my bedroom, they came back to the kitchen.

"One man went to one side and another went to the other and they pulled me up out of the chair and searched me. They ripped my emergency alarm off my neck and got the cash in my pocket. As soon as they got that they were away."

Mr Gillespie says he was very shaken up by the attack but is thankful that he wasn't hurt by the intruders.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid," he added.

"I was very afraid but I had sense enough not to resist, because they were there to get money and if they didn't get it they were going to find out where some was.

"In the process they could have given me a real hammering.

"I have read in the paper about what robbers have done, torturing people and pouring boiling water over them. Thank God that didn't happen, but it was on my mind the whole time they were there.

"I just did what I was told because I knew that they could overpower me. I am fairly fit but I couldn't have managed three of them, they were big hefty men."

Mr Gillespie says he is grateful for the support from the people of Strabane, who have put up reward money for the capture of the three men and raised enough money to get a hi-tech security system fitted to Pat's home.

And Pat himself says he will not let the incident hold him back.

"It knocked my confidence for a short time," he added.

"But I'm back to normal now, fighting fit. This will not stop me, I'm just getting up and getting on with it. I'm not going to let these people get me down.

"If I could speak to the people who did this to me I would say good luck to them.

"I hope they enjoy my money, I don't like the way they got it.

"I don't wish them ill will. They know in their conscience that they have done wrong, especially to a 100-year-old man who they didn't have to put much fight into overpowering.

"They are cowards but I'm not going to let them beat me."

Police have appealed for witnesses to the incident to come forward.

Detective Constable Richard Donnell said: "Police received at a report just after 9.30pm on Friday, October 27 that earlier that evening the occupant of the house in Railway Street, an elderly male, was confronted by three men who had forced their way through a back window.

"This was a disgusting and cowardly attack in which the intruders left with a quantity of cash.

"Thankfully, the man was not physically injured during the incident. However, he has been left shaken by the ordeal.

"We are appealing for anyone who was in the Railway Street area and saw anything suspicious to contact detectives at Strabane Criminal Investigation Unit on the non-emergency number, quoting reference 1623 27/10/17, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

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