Belfast Telegraph

Teen charged as mum-of-one fights for her life after drill attack

By Leona O'Neill

A 17-year-old male will appear in court this morning after a drill attack on a woman in Co Tyrone on Saturday morning left her in intensive care with a serious head injury.

Strabane mother-of-one Brenda McLaughlin (38) was attacked by a person wielding the cordless drill as she walked home alone at 2am on Saturday after a night out in the town's Railway Street.

The suspect, who is charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, is the son of a well-known republican in the town.

Police said a homophobic motive for the attack is one line of investigation and appealed for witnesses. The PSNI added that Ms McLaughlin sustained "a very serious head injury".

She was being treated in Altnagelvin Hospital's intensive care unit yesterday where a hospital spokesperson described her condition as stable. A friend of Ms McLaughlin, Corey French, said the family have been keeping a vigil at her bedside and that she is showing some progress.

"I have been speaking to the family and she is doing a little better," he said.

"She is still in the intensive care unit but she has been able to sit up and talk. She is still very ill but she is showing some progress, thank goodness. I know that she will be very encouraged to hear that everyone is supporting her. Brenda is such a lovely, gentle person that it will take her a very long time to get over this.

"She is a good person who is always up for a laugh and goes out of her way to be friendly.

"It will take her time to overcome this ordeal, but if I know her the way I think I do, she'll be fighting to make progress in her own way. The family are really devastated, they are upset.

"From the moment the accident happened they haven't left her bedside."

Late on Saturday evening, police charged the 17-year-old, who had been detained a short distance from the incident, with GBH with intent, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place and theft.

He is to appear at Omagh Magistrates Court this morning.

PSNI detective sergeant Brian Reid said: "This was a brutal attack and the injuries sustained by the victim are extremely grave. We are exploring a possible homophobic motive for the crime and we are appealing for witnesses to get in touch with us.

"We would like to hear from anyone who may have seen a male carrying a drill in the area at around the time of the assault and we would especially like to speak to anyone who may have captured footage, either on mobile phone or dashcam.

"Anyone with such footage or any other information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact police in Strabane on 101, quoting reference number 153 05/05/18.

"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."

Ulster Unionist councillor Chris Smyth described the attack was horrific.

"This was a brutal attack," he said. "It is hard to comprehend what goes through an individual's head that they would attack a woman with a drill. It's horrific - a despicable crime which I totally condemn.

"My thoughts are with the woman and her family.

"I hope that through time she can make a recovery after suffering such a vile attack."

Belfast Telegraph

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