Family's terror as dad attacked with hammer by masked raiders
Masked thugs used a hammer during a terrifying raid on a family home in rural Co Down.
The three-man gang threatened the three occupants - a husband and wife and their grown-up son - and demanded money.
The older man, who is in his 60s, was attacked with a hammer and needed hospital treatment.
The aggravated burglary occurred at a house on the Castlewellan Road in Ballyward sometime between 11.40pm on Thursday and 12.10am yesterday.
It is the second violent burglary in Co Down this week.
On Monday a woman was tied up by two masked men who started a fire during a raid in Clough.
She was rescued by neighbours.
On the latest attack, the PSNI said: "The men threatened the three occupants and demanded money from them.
"The two male occupants were assaulted and received injuries which aren't deemed to be life-threatening.
"The female occupant was left shocked by the ordeal.
"The three males made off from the area with a sum of money."
The older male was struck by a hammer, while the younger male also suffered injuries as he tried to come to his father's aid.
Locals voiced concern that the PSNI took 30 minutes to arrive at the scene.
A neighbour who has lived in the area for 70 years told of his shock over what had happened.
"I didn't think anything like this could happen here - it is a quiet area, but it is quite isolated," he said.
"This has left me nervous, and I'm thinking of getting a guard dog.
"I think elderly people who live in rural areas are a soft target.
"The closure of rural police stations has made people feel more vulnerable as it means that it takes longer for officers to get to the scene if anything happens.
"The incident in Clough where a woman was tied up during a burglary and the house set on fire was just dreadful.
"She could have been burned alive."
South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard described the Ballyward attack as "appalling".
He urged anyone with information to contact the police with it.
He said: "This is a vicious crime that has shocked the wider community. I am calling on anyone who may have any information about this armed robbery to come forward to the PSNI and help bring these vicious criminals responsible to justice."
UUP representative Jill Macauley said more police patrols were needed in rural areas.
"When you have three burglars in your house and you're being threatened, half-an-hour is a long time to wait," she said.
Chief Inspector Alexander Johnston said: "In relation to the burglary in Ballyward last night, resources were allocated two minutes after the initial call, responding from Downpatrick at 11.42pm, with the officers arriving at the scene at 12.10am.
"The investigation is ongoing and we ask anyone with information to contact 101.
"The reality is that nearly all policing services are delivered outside of stations and police officers do not spend their shifts within station complexes.
"Often local and neighbourhood police team officers are out on patrol, responding to calls across a wide area, working with vulnerable members of our community and tackling local issues."
Anyone with information can contact Ardmore PSNI Station on 101 quoting reference 1526 of 22/02/18, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.