Belfast Telegraph

Raids on elderly fell by a third after we caught dad and son thugs: PSNI

Burglary thugs John and James Hanrahan
Burglary thugs John and James Hanrahan

By Paul Higgins

Violent burglaries targeting the elderly and vulnerable dropped by almost a third after father and son robbers were caught, police have revealed.

James Hanrahan (48) and his 28-year-old son John were sentenced to five and four years respectively at Newry Crown Court yesterday.

They targeted and terrorised pensioners and vulnerable people across counties Armagh, Tyrone and Down.

The pair, who used weapons to frighten and threaten members of the public, will serve half their sentences in jail and half on licence.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC said the pair were "engaged in a campaign of burglary, sometimes with others, that was serious and could have been more serious, as weapons were used".

PSNI Chief Inspector Joe McMinn described them as "among the biggest players within this type of crime".

"There has been a 30% drop in this type of crime against vulnerable members of our community," he added.

The PSNI's Criminal Investigation Division said it hoped the sentencing could bring closure to the thugs' victims.

"The victims in some of these incidents were elderly and vulnerable," it said.

"We want to reassure everyone in our community that we will continue in our efforts to make Northern Ireland a safer place to live and work by proactively investigating and arresting people involved in criminality.

"We hope that the sentence today will act as a deterrent to others."

The court heard previously that, operating as part of a gang, the pair targeted a number of houses in Portadown, Moy, Crossgar, Hilltown and Middletown.

Hanrahan snr, from Nursery Drive in Newry, pleaded guilty to three counts of common assault and three different burglary offences, as well as dangerous driving, driving while banned and without insurance, all committed in February and March last year.

His son, also of Nursery Drive, admitted four offences committed at the same time - burglary, two counts of burglary with intent to steal, and common assault. He also admitted a further charge of aggravated burglary in October 2017.

Last week prosecuting counsel Geraldine McCullough outlined the men's crimes.

In an incident on the Benburb Road in Moy on February 26 last year, said Ms McCullough, a homeowner's mother called her daughter at work to say that her house had been broken into.

When she returned she discovered that the contents of the drawers in the kitchen and dining room had been strewn all over the floor and the whole house had been ransacked.

The lawyer said that her father, who lived next door, had gone to investigate and encountered two males leaving the house.

One of them pushed him and when he ran after him, said the lawyer, the burglar pulled out a screwdriver, pointed it at him and said: "Come any closer and I will put this through you."

Later that same day there was an incident at a property in Middletown, where the home of a 74-year-old man was ransacked.

Officers who viewed CCTV footage of the incident were able to identify the Hanrahans, said Ms McCullough.

Hanrahan snr admitted breaking into a property on St Patrick's Park in Hilltown two weeks later, as well as two counts of common assault arising from the incident.

His son admitted breaking into a house at Seagoe Park in Portadown. The 88-year-old owner had recently moved into a nursing home so the property was vacant at the time.

A neighbour who went to investigate told police one of the three men who ran from the house pushed him to the ground and threatened him.

Turning to the burglary of a house in Hilltown the same day, Ms McCullough told the court entry had been gained by smashing a kitchen window with the home ransacked and a wallet, purse and bank card being stolen.

A neighbour who heard banging and smashing called her husband and son to help and they were confronted by three men, one of whom threatened them with a knife shouting: "We will f****** stab you!"

Ms McCullough said, however, the description of this male did not match that of the defendants.

She said the three burglars "scrambled" to get into a waiting Audi TT, all of them trying to get in the driver's door, and as it sped away a wing mirror was kicked off and a photograph was taken of it by the witnesses.

Circulated as 'wanted', the police tried to stop the car using a stinger device, but even with its two front tyres burst, James Hanrahan drove on until he crashed into the back of a police car close to Forkhill.

He was forensically connected to that burglary after one of his socks fell out of the Audi TT as it left the scene, and the court heard that two other Audis used in earlier burglaries were found at the Hanrahans' home.

Ms McCullough submitted the offences were aggravated because the father and son had relevant criminal convictions for burglary and associated offences.

"They operate as part of a gang" and had used weapons to frighten and threaten members of the public, she added.

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