I’m too scared to show my face, they might come back and kill me

Lo­cals liv­ing in ter­ror… but when will their Garda sta­tion re­open?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Deb­bie Mc­Cann CRIME COR­RE­SPON­DENT deb­bie.mc­cann@mailon­sun­day.ie

PENSIONER John Byrne ten­ta­tively agrees to a sil­hou­ette pic­ture. The frail and ner­vous 68-year-old had his life turned up­side down when three men burst into his home as he was get­ting ready for bed. The event is on his mind ‘con­stantly’ and he ‘shakes’ with fear when he re­calls their threats to come back and ‘kill him’ if he lied about hav­ing no money.

The re­tired coun­cil worker had been qui­etly en­joy­ing his re­tire­ment in ru­ral Co. Car­low, af­ter over 40 years work­ing in a meat fac­tory and later in the county coun­cil.

That was un­til eight months ago when the men burst into his iso­lated home by pris­ing open his back win­dow with a screw­driver. They shoved him into his bath­room and locked the door. There he stayed for more than nine and a half hours, ‘sure’ they would carry out their threat to kill him.

Soon af­ter, Mr Byrne fled his home and sought refuge in a care home. He now has a panic but­ton strapped to his wrist. ‘They de­stroyed my life. I think about it ev­ery minute of ev­ery day,’ he told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day.

‘I lived in that house for 40 years but I couldn’t live there any more. They told me they would be back – that fright­ened me worse. I am a ner­vous sort of a lad any­way, so this re­ally knocked me. I had a dog but I had to give him away. This place wouldn’t have suited him. I was very sorry to say good­bye.’

Mr Byrne de­cided to tell his story in the hope it will put pres­sure on the Gov­ern­ment to re­open his lo­cal Garda sta­tion at Leigh­lin­bridge.

Another man who wants the sta­tion re­opened is Art O’Con­nor, who runs the lo­cal post of­fice. He was robbed three times in two months last year and, in one hor­ri­fy­ing in­ci­dent, was struck on the head with ei­ther a ham­mer or an im­i­ta­tion firearm. He told the MoS he was ‘lucky to be alive’ af­ter two raiders burst in with a ham­mer and a gun. Agree­ing that the mo­tor­way has re­sulted in some of the crime in the area, he said he is ‘lucky to be alive’ af­ter his or­deals.

‘The first guy sen­tenced for raid­ing my shop got a to­tal of seven years,’ he added, ‘but the sen­tences were to run con­cur­rently and he was out in a year. It’s a joke.’

Leigh­lin­bridge Garda Sta­tion – which is among more than 130 sta­tions

‘I was too afraid to live in my house any more’

closed around the coun­try – has been named in an in­terim Garda re­port rec­om­mend­ing its re­open­ing be­cause of an in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, its prox­im­ity to the M9 and vul­ner­a­bil­ity to mo­bile crim­i­nals.

Also named in the re­port was Stepa­side in south Dublin – the con­stituency of Trans­port Min­is­ter Shane Ross – which the Gov­ern­ment re­opened head of the other sta­tions named in the re­port. These in­clude Leigh­lin­bridge, Donard in Co. Wick­low and Rush in north Dublin.

John Byrne knows lit­tle about the pol­i­tics in­volved in re­open­ing Garda sta­tions but feels strongly about Leigh­lin­bridge. He told the MoS he has not seen a Garda in the town since the sta­tion closed in 2013 and that see­ing it re­opened would give him ‘peace of mind’.

‘We’d all love to see it open,’ agreed Mr O’Con­nor.

Other lo­cals, while hope­ful, couldn’t help be­ing scep­ti­cal.

‘Will the sta­tion ever open?’ asked one man, who didn’t want to be named. ‘I’m not so sure – we don’t have a TD in the town.’

wrecked life: Pensioner John Byrne thought he was go­ing to die

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