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Savage assault Outraged neighbours of Tom Niland offer big reward to catch gang responsible for attack

Mr Niland (73) is fighting for his life after a barbaric beating in his home by three balaclava-clad men on January 18

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Tom Niland remains critically ill

Tom Niland remains critically ill

Tom Niland remains critically ill

Outraged neighbours of Tom Niland, the pensioner who was savagely attacked by a gang last month, have offered a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his ruthless attackers.

Mr Niland (73) is fighting for his life after a barbaric beating in his home by three balaclava-clad men on January 18.

The much loved retired farmer suffered horrific, life-threatening head injuries during the assault, which happened at 7pm when he answered a knock on his door and the attackers burst in.

As fear and anger in his rural community mount, a local action group in Skreen, Co Sligo, met on Tuesday night and agreed to offer €20,000 for information that could lead to the conviction of those responsible.

Yesterday, a local consortium sought permission from investigating gardaí to offer the reward.

Mr Niland’s cousin, Michael Walsh, said the family are deeply appreciative of the support they have received.

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Mr Walsh said the pensioner remains on a ventilator in ICU and hope is fading of a positive outcome.

“We’re still waiting to see how things go. We don’t think it’s going to go very well,” he said. “My personal view is, I don’t think he’s going to come out of it.”

Mr Walsh said his cousin was a “very independent” person who had a full life until the attack, and while he was aware of the risks of living alone, he wasn’t living in fear.

“He was very much in a community. He didn’t show much fear himself.

“Tom was very strong-willed. He did close his gates late at night outside the house. Generally, they were left open for people to call into him. Anybody was welcome to Tom’s, day or night.”

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Mr Walsh said the burglars knocked at Mr Niland’s door, “burst in” as soon as he answered and showed “no mercy” as they set about robbing as little as €800.

“(They) just kicked and battered him relentless until they totally disabled him. Broke his bones. Broke his eye socket. Jumped on his head. Dreadful. There was no holding back. I’d say they didn’t care if they killed him.”

The injured victim did manage to make his way to the roadside, where a motorist stopped to help.

“The people who stopped at the side of the road didn’t even know what it was. They didn’t know if it was an injured animal or what was at the side of the road until they got right up close to him,” Mr Walsh said.

He described those behind the attack as “community terrorists”.

“It’s a subhuman mentality. To get together and decide to rob an old man. They planned this, to go and rob them. It’s shocking that they have no conscious whatsoever,” he said. “There is huge support for Tom, and hundreds of people are offering to take part in a search, and now they are offering a reward.

“The goodwill is there, and everybody is very eager to help. It is frustrating for them because you feel helpless in these situations.”

Mr Niland’s neighbour, Kathleen Henry, a barrister, said the community is reeling from the assault. 

“Everybody is trying to do everything they can to help. It’s all we can do, yet it won’t bring Tom back to us,” she said.

“But it is the only way we can show our respect for Tom.”

She added that the attack has “shattered our sense of security” and “shaken our trust in humanity”.

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