They've ruined my Christmas, says gran after thieves stole festive cash
A grandmother whose home was ransacked "in 15 minutes" has branded the thieves "scum of the earth" after they made off with Christmas money and priceless jewellery.
Mary Montgomery left her home in Hamiltonsbawn, Co Armagh, at around 6.40pm on Wednesday night at the same time her husband Wilbert went to help a neighbour.
"He was only away for 15 minutes and I returned within half an hour, it all happened so quickly," Mary told the Belfast Telegraph.
The couple, who are aged in their 60s, were horrified to discover that burglars had forced their way through a front window of the property on Ratarnet Road and raided the house.
"I kept expensive jewellery in a secured cabinet which was bolted to a wall, but they got everything," Mary explained.
Her own wedding and engagement rings, a range of valuables inherited from her late mother and a pair of ruby earrings she received as a gift from her husband on their 40th wedding anniversary in 2015 were among the items stolen.
"My mum didn't have much but everything she did have was mine, I was her only daughter. That jewellery has huge sentimental value and can never be replaced," she said.
Mary, who never keeps cash in the house, had just returned from a winter holiday last week and had spent the weekend with her son, who lives in England.
"There was £1,000 in the house which my husband had withdrawn from the bank to buy Christmas presents and I had £120 and €500 from my trips - but it's all gone now," she added.
The traumatised grandmother believes her husband interrupted the intruders.
"They must have seen Wilbert coming back and then fled because there was only one room left intact and there was an additional sum of money which wasn't taken," she said.
"It's obvious that they had hammers and who knows what else, it doesn't bear thinking about."
The couple's nine-year-old grandson had been in the house earlier in the day but his grandad had taken him home before the burglary happened.
"They could have beaten us with those weapons and it must have been a group because one person couldn't have done this.
"I'm just so grateful that my grandson wasn't there and no one was hurt."
Mary was left so distraught after the incident that she was unable to stay in her own house.
She added: "I worry now about returning home from work on evenings when Wilbert is out playing bowls - I don't know if I'll be able to do it."
She worries that the thieves will strike again. "I keep thinking they might return, even though we have nothing left for them to take. You hear about this happening to other people and it's awful, but when it happens to you it's something else entirely."
The mum-of-four said the burglary, reported first by ArmaghI, couldn't have happened at a worse time.
"They are scum of the earth, I wouldn't like to think that I would raise a child who would put someone through this.
"They will have a good Christmas, but they have ruined mine," she said.
DUP MLA William Irwin slammed those responsible and urged residents to be vigilant following a spate of burglaries in the area on Wednesday evening.