Farmer’s ‘looted home’ was ‘a horrifying scene’

Sligo pensioner Tom Niland is on life support for almost three months after suffering a ‘terrific’ serious burglary, a court has heard.

he farmer, 73, suffered serious injuries at his home in Doonflynn, Skreen, Co Sligo on January 18.

Gardaí later accused John Clarke (aged 33) of Carrowkelly, Ballina, Co. Mayo; Francis Harmon (aged 54) of Nephin Court, Killala Rd, Ballina; and John Irving (aged 28) of Shanwar, Foxford, Co Mayo, with aggravated burglary in connection with the incident.

All three were remanded in custody by Sligo District Court on March 10.

Irving and Clarke were denied bail in circuit court.

Irving and Clarke filed a new application for bail in the High Court, which opened before Lord Judge David King.

The country disagreed because of the severity of the case and fear of absconding.

Detective Sergeant Michael Kelly agreed with James Mulrean BL for the state that the offense carries a life sentence.

He said Mr Niland was watching the news around 6.30pm on January 18 when he noticed a van backing up into his driveway before there was a knock on his door.

The court heard he answered but was “rushed by three masked men”. It was alleged that they forced him into the house and demanded money.

Believing a knife was being made, he was threatened and they “beat and kicked him on the ground.”

The bail hearing was told he sustained life-threatening injuries, including a brain hemorrhage, a fractured eye socket and five fractured ribs.

He claimed Mr Niland said the men continued to demand money and “continued to viciously attack him”.

The court heard they had tied his legs and he told the men his wallet containing €80 was in his pocket.

It was taken, and after that he woke up on the doorstep.

Detective Sergeant Kelly said the pensioner’s home was “ransacked”, adding: “It was a horrific scene”.

He said there was a lot of blood and a knife was thrown away.

The court heard Mr Niland untie the knot and then “struggled on his feet” from his driveway to the main road, where he sounded the alarm.

Four days later, a kayaker found his wallet by a lake, and nearby Gardaí found two pairs of gloves with Mr Niland’s blood on the outside.

Initially, he made progress in the hospital and made a statement to Gardaí.

However, on January 26, his condition worsened and he has been on life support ever since.

The court heard a consulting doctor declare that “the outlook remains poor”.

Gardaí obtained CCTV and DNA evidence and examined phone records during the investigation.

The court heard the defendants lived 50 or 60 miles away, but there was an alleged “local connection in targeting Thomas Niland.”

Cross-examining defense attorney Aoife O’Leary, Detective Sergeant Kelly said the bail conditions did not allay his concerns.

The two men appeared at Castlerea prison via video link but did not address the court.

The court heard father-of-three Irving was on welfare and was arrested while collecting his payment.

The lawyer said he has family ties – his mother, with whom he lived, and his grandmother.

The lawyer claimed that he had neither a passport nor a driving license and that he did not have the means to leave the country.

She said he could come up with 500 euros bail. Clarke, father of three, was on disability and living with his mother.

Their attorney said they were prepared to abide by any terms set by the court.

Mr Justice King adjourned the decision on the application until Thursday. Farmer’s ‘looted home’ was ‘a horrifying scene’

Fry Electronics Team

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