Belfast Telegraph

Drill attack victim's family say she's stable in message of gratitude to well-wishers

By Brett Campbell

The family of a Strabane woman injured in a drill attack have thanked those who have helped and supported them in recent days.

Mother-of-one Brenda McLaughlin (38) was attacked by a youth wielding a drill in the Railway Street area of Strabane at 2am on Saturday morning.

She later told officers she believed she was targeted because she is homosexual and it is being treated as a hate crime.

Yesterday, in a statement released to the Belfast Telegraph, the victim's family thanked those who assisted Ms McLaughlin at the scene, in the hospital and as she recovered.

They also paid tribute to the support from the gay community, including the Rainbow Project, which is an LGBT advocacy group.

"We would like to thank all the hospital staff," they wrote. "Especially all the doctors and nurses in casualty and in the intensive care unit and high dependency units of Altnagelvin Hospital.

"We would also like to thank all the people who helped at the scene, to all the well-wishers, the LGBT community and the Rainbow Project.

"Brenda is doing well, she is now stable and she would like to thank everyone for the support throughout the past few days.

"We now ask the Press and the public to let us have our privacy to deal with everything that has happened."

A 17-year-old youth appeared at Omagh Magistrates Court on Monday charged with grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place and theft in connection with the attack.

During the hearing, a PSNI detective told the court that Ms McLaughlin had told medical staff that she "heard the noise of a drill and felt her head being twisted".

He added that there "does appear to be some sort of hole in the skull" but couldn't say how severe it is. The detective added that there was no evidence a drill bit was in place when the power tool was later recovered or after police checked security camera footage.

District Judge Peter King said there was a risk to public protection and remanded the teenager in custody, to appear by video-link at Strabane Magistrates Court on May 18.

Ms McLaughlin's family has been offered support by the Rainbow Project, who said they were horrified when reports of the incident emerged.

Rainbow Project officer Aisling Twomey said: "There is absolutely no excuse for someone being targeted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

"Hate crime robs people of their confidence and their independence.

"This attack could have left the victim with a serious, life-changing injury or led to a fatality. We echo the comments of District Judge Peter King, who described it as an inexplicably violent incident during the initial hearing on Monday.

"I would ask the local community in Strabane to give the PSNI the space they need to carry out their investigation and report any information about this assault to PSNI 101 or Crime stoppers immediately.

"I would encourage any person experiencing violence or intimidation as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to report it to the PSNI on 101.

"If they don't feel comfortable with the police, then they can speak directly to the Rainbow Project's advocacy service by emailing advocacy@rainbow-project.org.

"All our thoughts are with the victim and her family and we wish her the best during her recovery."

Belfast Telegraph

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