‘They were four thugs but they won’t get the better of us’ – Woman (93) held hostage with her sons in violent home invasion speaks about ordeal
– 5h ago
On Monday night, Una Farrell and her two sons were held hostage by four ruthless raiders.
Una (93) was locked in one room while the masked men tied up her two sons, aged in their 60s, and ransacked her home.
The four men escaped with a small sum of money, leaving the Farrells deeply traumatised.
Una and her family have served the community of Ballintubber, Co Roscommon, at their small local shop on the outskirts of the town for the last 61 years. Her home is attached to the shop.
On Tuesday morning, determined not to let “those four thugs” get the better of her, Una reopened the family shop.
Smiling, calm and undaunted, Una told the Irish Independent she was determined to put her best side out, and the four men who invaded her home weren’t going to win.
“They got what they came for and they’re gone now, and I’m still here,” she said.
“They are not getting the better of us.
“We opened up this morning, and we hope people will come back into us now. We are here 61 years, and we will be here a long time yet.”
Una said she doesn’t understand why a person would break into someone else’s home, terrorise them and wreak havoc.
“I don’t know. What can you say about people like that?” she said. “They were four thugs. They are traumatising people. They took the phones off the wall, but my sons have their phones still.
“We’re OK, considering, and we will be OK. We have to get on with it now. We have to keep the doors open.”
Una believes the raiders were watching the premises before they broke in.
“They had to have been keeping an eye out around the place,” she said. “I don’t know what makes people that way. They got what they came for, but we’re going to move on.”
Placing her hand on a stack of Irish Independent newspapers stacked neatly on her shop countertop, Una says she wants to clear something up.
“I’ve been selling the Irish Independent for years, and I read in the news today that I’m supposed to be 94, but I’m only 93. I won’t be 94 for another four days,” Una said with a smile. “Clear that up for me now, won’t you?”
Local Councillor Anthony Waldron said harsher sentencing is needed to deter burglary gangs.
“They have no fear. They don’t care what harm they do to people,” he said.
“They could have a list of convictions as long as your arm, and then they are out and about as free as birds.
“They have no respect for society, and more needs to be done to get these people out of circulation.
“When we had local garda stations, the gardaí knew what was going on in areas like Ballintubber.
“Everyone is furious this happened to the Farrell family. They are at the heart of the community here.
“People love that shop – they sell everything from a needle to an anchor. They open early in the morning, and they close late at night.
“In the past, whole families survived by having a book behind the counter. They have provided great service to generations. They are hardworking people who are highly respected in this community.
“The people who did this need to be brought to justice. Somebody must have seen something unusual. We don’t want this to become another statistic. We want to see real action taken, and we want to see the legislators get serious.
“How can these crimes be prevented? A great way to start is to get known prolific offenders off the streets.”
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice said this was a “heinous crime” that has “disgusted” the local community.
“These people were attacked at their house, and these burglars came in to try and extract money out of them, and whatever else, at their business premises. People are shocked and saddened by what has happened,” he told RTÉ News.
“It’s actually outside the village. It’s halfway between Ballintubber and up to the N60 on the main road going for Roscommon town, so it’s at a crossroads – a rural little shop, a very popular little shop run by this mother and her son, and people are very shocked by what has happened.”
Cllr Fitzmaurice said the local community is in fear following the incident: “It’s something you wouldn’t expect to happen in a rural area like this,” he said.
“When we hear of these kind of crimes, people are quite shocked that this would happen to these quiet people who open their shop from early in the morning until late in the evening, and would never expect to see a crime like this happen. The fact that it was an aggravated burglary as well puts a little bit of fear into people.
“We were delighted to see in the last number of years that crime had been going down year on year, but when you see an incident like this happening, it comes to the forefront. It’s an isolated incident, but at the same time it’s a horrible incident to happen.”
Parish priest Fr Pat O’Toole visited the family and said they are doing well following the ordeal. He said the family had to go to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm after they freed themselves.
“They’re remarkably calm and good,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline. We had a cup of tea together, we prayed together, and I just wanted to reassure them of our love and concern for them.
“The mother, who will be 94 one of the days now, she amazed me. She was so calm. They went through a traumatic experience, but they appreciate the care, concern and prayers.
“I understand they [the burglars] tied their legs together, and they removed the landline and took away their mobile phones. They ransacked the shop.”
Local man Pat King said the last burglary crime spree in the area was only six months ago.
“People are very angry and afraid.” he said. “There were three places broken into six months ago in one night. There are many older people around the village here, and this kind of thing terrifies them.
“Whoever they were, they had to have local knowledge to know to come to a tiny place like this.”