suspects quizzed | 

Three men arrested over aggravated burglary that left OAP Tom Niland fighting for life

One man aged in his 50s, one in his 30s and another in his 20s are currently detained at separate Garda stations

Tom Niland

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Three men have been arrested by gardai investigating an aggravated burglary in Skreen that left Sligo pensioner Tom Niland on life support in hospital.

The 73-year-old fell victim to a savage assault and robbery when he answered the door to three men at his home on January 18.

Seven weeks after he was brutally assaulted by the burglary gang at his home Mr Niland remains critically ill.

Today, gardai said the men, one aged in his 50s, one in his 30s and another in his 20s are currently detained under the provisions of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 at separate Garda stations in the Sligo and Leitrim Division.

“Gardaí investigating an aggravated burglary in Skreen, Co Sligo on Tuesday, January 18, have arrested three men in the North West Region, on suspicion of burglary,” gardaí said.

“No further information is available at this time.”

Speaking to Sunday World last week, Mr Niland’s cousin said his attackers had effectively taken his life away .

Michael Walsh said there has been no real improvement in Tom’s condition and doctors had been close to recommending taking him off life support but then detected brain stem function.

“They haven’t killed him, but they’ve taken his life away. He has no life and he will not have a life after this,” he told us.

He said the type of people who attack elderly people in their homes have destroyed countless lives around the country but don’t care.

“So many people around the country get badly assaulted and they’ll never be the same again. Life will never be the same again for them.”

He said the family had got their up hopes recently when they noticed movement in Tom’s muscles but nurses told them it was just a reaction to drugs they had given him and not a sign of his condition improving.

“There’s no real improvement. They put him on some treatment twice. It goes on for about five days and he always seems to be slightly different after it.

“It affects his muscles and nerves. He started moving his head slightly but he’s not conscious. There’s some kind of reaction with the chemical they give him. The nurses have told me it’s kind of reflex movements, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. He’s not really responding. He’s not coming around or anything.

“We initially thought this is brilliant, but they were very quick to tell us not to get our hopes up.

“You just look at all these little things and you hope but there’s nothing really happening. He’s still on life support.”

Michael said doctors recently had to give Tom a tracheotomy.

“The respirator tube was going through his mouth, but they changed that because you can only leave someone on that for a certain period of time because it begins to affect the mouth and throat and you get sores and stuff like that.

“They did a tracheotomy opening his neck and put the tube in there to help him. He needs that to breathe.

“There’s no movement in his hands or any response. His hands just stay open.”

Michael added that doctors have carried out a number of response tests on Tom to see if there is brain stem function.

“If there is no brain stem function then they can turn off the respirator with our permission. When they do that something can kick in and he might be able to survive, but might not.

“They have to do three tests before they can legally turn that off. They did two and got no response and the third one was inconclusive. It was very close to them actually deciding to knock off the machine and seeing if he would start [breathing on his own].

"They decided they’d try him on a chemical and from then on they established there is brain stem function. There’s a little spark but there’s nothing happening. He’s not able to do anything on his own.

“In a way that’s not good. He could live like this for a long time and he wouldn’t be responding. It’s no way to live. I know Tom wouldn’t like that. None of us would like that, having to be fed and everything. There’s no quality of life. You’re basically dead but your body is kept going in an artificial existence.”

He said that while the family know that things aren’t looking good, there is hope.

“We just keep hoping. Maybe they’ll try this chemical again we’ll have to have a meeting on that, maybe this coming week and see.

“They wouldn’t be continuing on this long unless there was something in their mind [that there was hope] but at the same time they’re very cautious not to build up our hopes.”

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