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In custody Mayo gang arrested over vicious attack that left Sligo OAP Tom Niland on life support

Mr Niland remains in a critical condition and on life support at Sligo University Hospital.

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Tom Niland was viciously beaten by three masked attackers at his home in Skreen, Co Sligo, on January 18 and remains on life-support

Tom Niland was viciously beaten by three masked attackers at his home in Skreen, Co Sligo, on January 18 and remains on life-support

Tom Niland was viciously beaten by three masked attackers at his home in Skreen, Co Sligo, on January 18 and remains on life-support

Three members of a Co Mayo-based crime gang have been arrested for a savage aggravated burglary that shocked the nation.

Senior sources have revealed there was nothing in their previous criminal conduct to suggest they would be capable of the extreme violence inflicted on Tom Niland, who is understood to have fought back against the intruders at his home.

All arrested suspects remained in custody at garda stations in Co Sligo and Co Leitrim last night, and sources say gardaí are following a definite line of inquiry.

Mr Niland remains in a critical condition and on life support at Sligo University Hospital.

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Mr Niland's home

Mr Niland's home

Mr Niland's home


Three masked men forced their way into the 73-year-old’s home at Doonflynn at Skreen on the N59 at around 7pm on January 18 and viciously assaulted him. Mr Niland was left with serious head and upper body injuries.

The Sunday World can reveal that the suspects arrested yesterday morning are from the Ballina area and are not related to each other.

“Serious violence like this would not be their general modus operandi but they are known for burglary offences, intimidation and drugs offences. They are into a bit of everything in a criminal sense,” a source said.

“They are closely connected to each other and these arrests happened after many weeks of investigation by Sligo gardaí who are leading this, with help from their colleagues in Mayo.”

The arrest operation had been planned for many days in a probe which involved at least 30 officers.

Within days of the savage incident, specialist detectives had ruled out the involvement of the more prolific burglary gangs that have been operating out of the capital, using the motorway network to cause terror in rural communities.

“From an early stage it was clear this was the work of a local crew. But it took it a lot of investigations before these arrests could be made,” a source explained.

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Mr Niland’s cousin Michael Walsh said he was “thrilled” to hear there have been arrests.

“I’m outside the ICU now and I told Tom the news and I hope it might give him a boost,” he said.

“I was hoping he might even open his eyes a bit or it might wake him up a bit, but there is still no difference in him.

“He’s unconscious on a ventilator. He’s just lying there.

“The nurses are working on him constantly, they’re wonderful.”

Mr Walsh said the gardaí had left the family in no doubt that they would “throw everything” at the case.

“We saw that, the way they carried out all the searches and combed the mountains and the lakes,” he said.

“They have done so much behind the scenes too.

“We are very grateful to them for all they done for Tom.

“It’s still all about Tom at the same time, and I don’t know if he will ever come out of this. But this [the arrests] is certainly a bonus.

“No matter what the guards achieve legally, it’s hard to say if there is such a thing as justice. Tom is suffering. He may never come out of this.

“They haven’t killed him but they have taken his life.”

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