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Peter Pan Lyric Theatre
By Staff Reporter

A Rosapenna Street man who had his hands smashed with a claw hammer has been described by neighbours as ‘a gentle giant’ uninvolved in any criminality.

Stephen Burns (52) was attacked in his home in the early hours of last Thursday morning (5 December) when a group of four or five men broke into his home, took his back door keys and interrogated him about money in his home.

The terrified householder’s ordeal continued as the gang laid him down on the floor of his kitchen and told him to spread out his arms and legs. They then took his hands, wrapped one in a towel and repeatedly struck them with a claw hammer, leaving his bones completely smashed in one and fractured in the other.

Stephen’s aunt Úna O’Halloran, who lives nearby, described what happened on the night.  “I woke up around 12 o’clock. I heard my neighbour’s voice, but I looked out and couldn’t see anything. I noticed my nephew’s porchlight was on, so I ran down and my neighbour said “I thought your Stephen took a heart attack but he’s been beaten.”

She recounted what Stephen had told her happened after the men gained entry.

“They said to him ‘where’s the money?’ He told them he had none, but they called him a liar. They got him to lie down on the floor then turned the lights out in the hallway.” At this point the men began to attack the defenceless man.

After the horrific assault, Stephen managed to get to his front door where he was barely able to pull the handle down and call for help. His neighbour arrived at the door and rang an ambulance.

Úna continued, “We were in the hospital all night with him. He was in a state of shock. His brother, sister and friend stayed at the hospital. They showed him the X-Ray and told them that one hand was completely shattered and his fingers fractured on the other. The doctor said “this man needs operated on right away.” He was in surgery for eight hours. His hands are bandaged up to his elbows and he’d to go to the theatre last week.

“In hospital he said ‘they’ve crippled me.’ His daddy was murdered in 1972 coming out of the Glenpark and he still relives all and reminisces about his mummy – he loves that house because it was his mummy’s.”

Úna described the general mood of bewilderment and sadness in the area since the attack.

“The cops said to me that it was a complete mystery to them why this was done to Stephen. They said they were completely baffled by it.

I’ve done nothing but cry. The house hasn’t stopped, my phone never stopped ringing with people talking about him. People are in shock. I’m baffled, and everyone is baffled.”

In a statement the PSNI said, “Detectives in North Belfast are appealing for information after a report of aggravated burglary at residential premises at the Rosapenna Street area yesterday evening Monday 2 December.

Shortly after midnight, it was reported that up to five masked males entered a house in the area. It is believed that a male resident in his 50s, who was upstairs at the time, was ordered down stairs where he was assaulted. The man received injuries to his hands and feet after being beaten with hammers.

“He was treated in hospital for his injuries that are not believed to be life threatening.”

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