Recently widowed mum caring for sick teenage daughter the latest victim of break-in spree across North and Newtownabbey

Families afraid to Sleep in their Beds

By Kieran Hughes

An Oldpark woman whose husband passed away last year says she is terrified sleeping in her own home after youths broke in to her property and tried to steal her sick daughter’s bicycle at the weekend.

The break-in at Colette Delaney’s Oldpark Avenue home in the early hours of Saturday morning (December 1) is one of at least nine break-ins and attempted break-ins in the last week in the area, and more across the district as we reported last week.

Colette joined local community representatives on Tuesday (December 4) as they leafleted the Oldpark, one of the worst affected areas, warning of the spate of burglaries.

Colette had been looking after her 14-year-old daughter Monica who had suffered an epileptic fit on Friday evening when her house was targeted.

When she heard a loud bang outside she went to investigate and discovered her wheelie bins stacked against the wall of her backyard.

She went out to the yard and saw her daughter’s bike, which had been in the yard, lying in the alleyway and she phoned the police.

“My husband (Thomas Delaney) died suddenly last year. I have been in that house 25 years and I have never been afraid on my own, even when my husband died but now I am terrified in it,” said Colette.

“I have hardly slept since I found my husband dead in the house and this has made me ten times worse.  I love my home but this has just knocked the heart out of it.”

She said she believed the culprits has targeted the family as they knew only her and Monica lived there.

“It’s most definitely someone who knew that I am here on my own with my wee girl. They are scumbags to do that to anybody. But I won’t be leaving, this is our family home and the memories are all here.”

There have been at least seven break-ins in the Oldpark area in the last week alone while there have also been burglaries in Ligoniel, Glengormley and Innisfayle off the Antrim Road in the past fortnight.

Oldpark community worker John McAlea appealed to residents to be vigilant.

“I would also ask residents to be very cautious about what they are buying if they are offered any goods because they could be stolen from homes locally,” he said. “They are also preying on people they believe are vulnerable and I would ask local people to be take reasonable precautions in securing their homes.”

Garrett Gorman, Coordinator with North Belfast Community Restorative Justice Ireland said they will continue to support families in the area being preyed upon by thieves and engage with the community to force those responsible to end their callous activities.

“CRJI is aware that some of the goods taken from homes have been offered for sale locally and calls on anyone offered these stolen items to examine their conscience and not allow themselves to be complicit in these heartless crimes against their neighbours,” he said.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Danny Lavery urged people to secure their homes and not make it easy for thieves during the busy time leading up to Christmas.

“We have been dealing with residents from the New Lodge to Glengormley and from the Cliftonville area to the Castle who have had their homes burgled in recent days and they are all shocked at this disgusting crime,” he said. “I’m particularly appealing to our older and more vulnerable citizens to lock your doors and windows even when at home during the day.

“Unfortunately as well as opportunist break-ins we have also seen so called distraction burglaries where a caller keeps the resident talking as another person carries out the theft. We have raised this increase in break ins with the PSNI at the local Multi-Agency meetings and are demanding their resources are focused on bringing these criminal gangs before the courts.

“We are also demanding that repeat offenders receive appropriate sentences and aren’t released on bail and that this community is protected.”

Police say they are investigating a number of reports of break-ins in the Oldpark area. They have appealed to anyone with information to contact them in Tennent Street on 0845 600 8000. Or if someone would like to pass information without giving their details they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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