Belfast Telegraph

Burglars target grieving children's gifts on weeks after Armagh dad's death

By Brett Campbell

An Armagh family has been left devastated after burglars stole the children's presents on Christmas Eve, just weeks after their father passed away.

The family and police have appealed for information to help find the thieves responsible.

Biddy Shortt had been keeping Christmas presents at her boyfriend's house to stop her younger siblings and two-year-old niece from finding them.

The pair had stayed with Biddy's family on the Friday night before Christmas, and discovered the break-in when they returned to the property in Keady the following morning.

"We were hiding Christmas presents at my boyfriend's house. It was Christmas Eve morning when we discovered the break-in. Everything was gone," she said.

The thieves made off with a lot of items, including bed clothes, a Sky TV box, make-up and all the presents.

Bottles of perfume, gifts for her grandparents and tools belonging to her boyfriend were also taken. Anything the thieves couldn't take they destroyed, including a rocking horse intended as a gift for her two-year-old niece Hayley.

"They couldn't get the rocking horse out through the door so they smashed it to pieces. They took everything," she said.

The burglars also destroyed the cooker and broke a washing machine that had been purchased just three weeks ago.

Among the kids' gifts taken was a bedroom unit that Biddy's 15-year-old sister Jolene had requested for Christmas and a customised remote-controlled lorry for her 11-year-old brother Kevin.

The young siblings have been left traumatised, she said.

Biddy (26) said she had gone on a desperate last-minute shopping trip on Christmas Eve but couldn't replace the items.

"We couldn't get the lorry sorted," she said.

"My dad used to drive lorries and more recently he would have bought and sold them.

"He had a lorry with Kevin's name on it, so we had got Kevin a replica remote-controlled lorry with his name painted on it. It was impossible to get another one so close to Christmas," she explained.

The specially customised item cost £450.

The family hadn't been excited about Christmas as they are still grieving the loss of their father Francie Shortt (53), who died suddenly on November 11.

The cause of his death is unknown and the family are still waiting for the results of a post-mortem.

"This ordeal has only made it worse," Biddy added.

"It was hard on us, Christmas was always going to be hard after losing Daddy, but now this has happened," she said.

"It's absolutely disgusting how anyone could do this. I tried to get Kevin a few wee things, but he was left with nothing to play with on Christmas Day."

She appealed for the culprits responsible for the theft to think about the consequences of what they had done: "Do you not realise what you have done? It was going to be hard enough this Christmas trying to get over losing our father.

"To do this on any family is bad enough, but to target our house like this."

Biddy added: "We are devastated. The kids always have presents, this has never happened. I felt like I had not only let them down, but that I had let Daddy down too."

The property on Kinelowen Street in Keady was broken into sometime between the 9.30pm on Friday, December 23 and 9.30am on Christmas Eve.

Police have appealed for anyone with information to contact them in Armagh on 101 and quote reference 511 of 24/12/16, or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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