A Sligo pensioner left fighting for his life after a “vicious and cowardly” attack at his home is a ‘gentle giant that would do nothing only good for people’.
73-year-old Thomas Niland is in critical condition with serious hear and upper body injuries after three men broke into his home and stole a sum of cash last month.
Gardaí yesterday renewed their appeal for information – insisting “no stone will be let unturned” in their investigation.
Superintendent Mandy Gaynor said Mr Niland, who was living alone at his home in the village of Skreen, was able to crawl to the roadside and alert passing drivers on the N59.
She said Mr Niland’s condition has “deteriorated significantly” in recent days – noting that he is now on life support.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, local Councillor Michael Clarke people in the area are now “very concerned for his life”, noting that the investigation, “may well turn into a murder inquiry”.
He said the community is in total shock since that attack.
“The same day Ashling Murphy was being laid to rest, the whole country was in mourning and these individuals were planning a terrible assault on a gentle giant,” he said.
“A lovely man. A man that worked hard all his life on the farm and would do nothing only good for people.
“We were totally shocked. This is not a vulnerable man. This a man with a good life and a huge, long life ahead of him. For this to happen to him is just terrible. It sent shockwaves throughout the community here.”
He said people living in rural areas all over the country are very concerned for their safety this morning.
“My phone hasn’t stopped with senior citizens who I represent here asking, am I going to be next?” he said.
“I think society has to send those people a message that we do care about you.
“You are our senior citizens, you worked all your life, you live alone, we do care about you and we have to bring in a proper deterrent to ensure these don’t continue to happen.”
Cllr Clarke claimed that there have been “about 14 events” in rural Sligo in the past two months alone
“This is continuous over the last number of years here in rural areas,” he said. “We have lost so many supports. We have lost our Garda barracks and our courthouses.
“On this occasion in relation to Tom, Gardai are doing everything they can to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice and I would encourage anybody that has any information to support Gardaí in their efforts.”
Gardaí are following several lines of inquiry in relation to the attack and are studying hours of CCTV footage form the area.
They are appealing to any with any information on this “vicious and cowardly aggravated burglary” to contact them immediately.
They are particularly interested in talking to anyone who driving on the N59 Sligo/Ballina Road at the time of the attack - between 4pm and 8pm on January 18th - and may have dash-cam footage.