Critically ill | 

Family of Thomas Niland (73) 'fear the worst' as his condition deteriorates

The Sligo farmer was attacked by three masked men during a robbery at his home in January

Tom Niland is in a coma

Clodagh Meaney

The family of Sligo man Thomas Niland, who was left critically ill in hospital after an aggravated burglary at his home, have said that they're fearing the worst as his condition continues to deteriorate.

The 73-year-old was attacked by three masked men during a robbery at his home in Skreen at approximately 7pm on January 18th.

The farmer managed to crawl out of his home to alert passing motorists following the cruel attack.

Initially Thomas was awake and able to give Gardaí crucial information, however just 48 hours later he fell into a coma and is now in Sligo University Hospital on life support.

Speaking to Newstalk on Tuesday at lunchtime, his cousin Michael Walsh said: "When we did get to see him, he was unrecognisable. His head was nearly twice the size as normal... [he was] beaten to a pulp.”

"It was something you wouldn't want to see in your lifetime. It was absolutely shocking to think any human could do that to somebody else."

“We fear it's going to be the worst... we don't even want to think about it. He still hasn't improved... there are still a lot of tests being done,” he explained.

"It's very difficult with such head injuries... they cannot operate or do anything like that."

Michael described Thomas, who was home alone at the time of the attack, as “so obliging” and said that would do anything to help others.

"He was always helping people."

"Even at 73, you would see him going to help older people... trim their hedges and do various things for them.”

"He didn't retire fully - he was always helping people. [Retirement] just gave him more time to help other people."

Michael Walsh, (first cousin of Tom Niland) and his daughter Michelle Haran

Thomas was able to tell Gardaí that at about 7pm three large men wearing balaclavas arrived at his door.

Thomas was able to give a description of his attackers, saying three large men wearing balaclavas arrived at his door.

They forced their way into his home where they stole a small sum of money before leaving the 73-year-old badly injured.

"Skreen is a rural area... it's on the main route between Ballina and Sligo. There was a lot of traffic passing that evening,” Michael said.

"These people drove in, backed into his doorway, and escaped. Somebody must have seen something.”

"A lot of people have come forward... and given dashcam footage. Some houses had cameras... that would reach out to the road and maybe pick up some details of cars around that time.”

"[Gardaí] still want more... They are appealing for people to come forward. No matter how small it is, come forward with the information."

Anyone with information can contact Sligo Garda Station on 071 915 7000, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.

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