Belfast man's first Christmas with birth mum ruined by gang’s £20k raid
A Belfast man has said his Christmas has been "destroyed" after nearly £20,000 worth of property was stolen from his house.
Stephen Betts (39), who was adopted, had been looking forward to spending his first ever Christmas with his birth mother after meeting her earlier this year.
The burglary took place in Knockbreda Park between 8.30am and 4.30pm on Friday.
Among the valuables stolen were five paintings worth a total of £1,500 by the local artist Terry Bradley.
The security officer said he was devastated by the break-in and now no longer felt able to relax in his own home.
"It makes you very angry and emotional," he said.
"Every time a vehicle drives past you want to write down their registration, you shouldn't have to feel like that.
"There's a worry that people will come back, and your house feels very dirty.
"It feels like Christmas has been destroyed. My family have been very helpful, but there's only so much you can do to replace things."
Mr Betts said his partner had all of her Christmas shopping for her family stolen, including a number of items of designer clothing, along with a ring worth £5,000 that had belonged to her late mother.
"You feel quite ruined. A lot of the items had sentimental value," he said.
"I have two bodybuilding trophies that are gone.
"She's had a bag taken that has things like a lock of hair from when her children were babies.
"You feel very washed out and it's hard to get yourself back together."
He said it appeared that a window at the back of the house had been forced open.
"My partner arrived home about 4.30pm and it was very upsetting for her that she had to walk into that," he added.
"She thought it was very cold initially, then she noticed the paintings were off the wall, as well as the TV.
"When she went to the bedroom everything was tipped upside down and she lost every piece of jewellery except what she was wearing."
He said the theft had tainted what was supposed to be a landmark Christmas for him.
"I've had a rough time at Christmas before, but this was one of the first years that I was really looking forward to it," he said.
"I'm 39, but I only met my mother this year after going through adoption.
"So it has caused upset in what's supposed to be a happy time."
Mr Betts has appealed for anyone who was in the area last Friday and who has any information or dash-cam footage to come forward and share it with police.
A post on his Facebook page about the burglary has been shared more than 800 times.
"The support we've received means so much," he said.
"Going through this is something you wouldn't wish on your own worst enemy."
Police said other items stolen included a quantity of jewellery and an Oris Pro Diver watch.
"Enquiries are continuing and we would appeal to anyone with any information to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 887 7/12/18," the PSNI said.
"Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime."
In 2016, 50 original paintings and prints by Bradley were stolen from a pop-up gallery in Belfast city centre.
A number were later recovered by police.