Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
John Hand

Sligo attack victim Tom Niland's relative hails volunteers amid search for evidence

A relative of Tom Niland has revealed how community support has helped relieve the sense of “anger” and “helplessness” of the brutal incident.

Michael Walsh hailed those volunteers who helped yesterday as investigators combed through an area nearby the Sligo home of his cousin in a bid to gather evidence on the burglary gang who left the OAP for dead last month.

Michael explained that while he is taking it “one day at a time”, he fears the worst as Tom lays in a coma.

Heartbroken Michael told the Irish Mirror: “We’re hopeful, but what do we do if he’s gone?”

Bachelor Tom was at his home in Skreen on January 18 when three masked thugs burst in around 7pm.

They stamped on the 73-year-old’s head, left him with a smashed eye-socket and broke seven of his ribs before making off with between €600 and €800.

As cops continue their major inquiry, the search took place along the N59, between Doonflynn, Dromore West and along the route leading up as far as Lough Easkey.

Supt Mandy Gaynor, of Sligo Garda Station, says significant evidence has already been recovered along this route, which includes Tom’s wallet the gang discarded.

Volunteers from the community turned out along with the Sligo Divisional Search team, the Garda Mounted Unit, Garda Dog Unit, Garda Water Unit, Garda Air Support and the local Civil Defence.

Mr Walsh said: “The anger that you feel, the helplessness and so on, then you see something like this, it’s an incredible thing. It gives you faith in humans as well.”

In the days following the attack, Tom was speaking from Sligo University Hospital after the attack but has since slipped into a coma as his head injuries worsened.

Asked about Tom’s condition, Michael explained: “It’s one day at a time. You always hold on to hope. We’re hoping but we’re not convinced that it will end well bar a miracle. They’re treating him and doing everything they can.

“We were flying high compared to where we are now because he was talking on the phone, he spoke to me. I was allowed in to talk to him.

“And then it’s something to do with that his brain is so badly damaged. And after that he never recovered.

“We are dreading the next stage, we’re hopeful but what do we do if he’s gone?”

Supt Gaynor said she and her team have been “overwhelmed” with the level of community support.

Members of Civil Defence arriving to assist Gardai in the search for the phone belonging to Tom Niland (James Connolly)

She explained there has been progress in the case and continues to gather evidence but insists people with more information have yet to come forward. She said: “We are following specific lines of enquiry, taken numerous statements, secured hours of CCTV footage and continue to liaise with Forensic Science Ireland.

“I am determined that the criminals who carried out this crime will be brought to justice and my investigation team are working tirelessly to ensure this happens.

“I am confident there are still people out there who know who was involved in this aggravated burglary and serious assault on an elderly man in his home.

“I am asking you to do the right thing and come forward.”

The senior officer explained that she understands there is fear in the community by this “horrendous” crime but urged people not to spread false information.

Gardai at the home of a man in his 70s, in Skreen, Co. Sligo, who was badly beaten and hospitalised as a result (James Connolly)

She added: “Do not be drawn into the spread of fake news, particularly on social media platforms. Inaccurate and ill-informed speculation is not helpful to the investigation and can generate unease and fear. If you believe you have information that is of assistance to the investigation team please provide that information directly to the investigation team in Sligo at 071 9157000.”

Supt Gaynor also moved to ease fears, particularly for older people.

She explained: “I want to say – ‘Your home is your castle, your safe place’.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.