A crime meeting in Lanesboro this week heard graphic details of how a burglary left its victim in fear of returning home
Richie McKelvey (54) was attacked and robbed in his home at Brosna just outside Birr on the night of November 3, 2018.
He was beaten, dragged from his house and locked in a shed from which he later managed to escape and alert a neighbour to what had happened.
His sister Annette addressed the crime and health meeting in Lanesboro on Monday night and hammered home the importance of neighbours ‘looking out’ for each other in the community.
“I tell the story from the perspective of a sister - there is just the two of us and we are very normal people; me and my brother lived a very normal life before this happened; I’m married with three children and Richie was the bachelor brother who lived on the home farm,” she said.
“Richie lived a very normal life - he went to hurling matches with myself and the children; did his bit of shopping and went to the mart.
“He did nothing extraordinary or nothing out of the way.”
On the day of the incident Richie travelled in to Roscrea to collect money, visited his elderly mother, tended to his stock and locked up everything before entering the house for the night.
“He had a small burglary during the summer - the house had been ransacked - but it didn’t compare at all to what was coming,” his sister Annette continued, before pointing out that nevertheless, Richie had upped the security as a result of the incident.
“He had extra locks on the gates, locked the tractor at night and was bringing the key in to the house; he was also locking the car, bringing the sheepdog into the house and bringing him up the stairs and into the bedroom with him.”
Annette says she didn’t know any of this until after the night of November 3.
“On that night, Richie watched the Late Late Show, let the dog out for fresh air and then went up the stairs to bed,” she added.
“He locked the bedroom door but it wasn’t enough.
“Four masked men who had been in the area watching around for about a week beforehand, broke into the house, went up the stairs, knocked the dog out of the way, burst into Richie’s bedroom and pulled him out of the bed.
“They tied him up, dragged him down the stairs and beat him up in the yard.
“They then locked him in a nearby shed.”
Meanwhile, those men returned to the house and proceeded to ransack it in the hope that they could find cash or valuables at the residence.
“When it comes to rural crime,” said Annette, “there is a ripple effect because there are other people in the picture too.”
On the night, Annette got a call from Richie’s neighbour in Coolderry who said, ‘Come down here Annette, something bad has happened’.
Annette and her husband Brian raced to their jeep and headed for the farm 25 miles away, where Richie had managed to free himself from the shed.
Badly injured, he had made his way to the main N62 and alerted his neighbour to his ordeal.
“What saved Richie that night was the fact that it was a clear night - there was a full moon and he was so afraid, he just kept running until he came to the main road,” said Annette.
Richie was subsequently taken by ambulance to the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore.
“This never happened to us before; it felt all wrong because it did not fit in with the rural Ireland that I know,” she continued.
“It was our neighbours in Coolderry who helped us and were there for us and it was them that organised a public meeting a week later.
“That is why it is very powerful to see you here anticipating making changes to your lives and to see you here trying to prevent (something ) happening to each other (like) what happened to me and my brother and to our family.”
In the aftermath of the attack, Richie was too afraid to go back to his home, so he stayed with his sister and her family in Kilcormac.
“Day by day Richie got stronger and got more courage, and eventually he went back to the farm for a few hours,” smiled his sister, before pointing to the fact that he is now commuting back and forth, and will move back in February because he will have cows calving and sheep to take care of.
“Ireland has changed, there is no question about that and it is very powerful to see you all here tonight.
“You can make a change - it might be just a small change by spotting a car, a bike or a jeep that’s in the area.
“That might just be enough to prevent profound harm being caused to your neighbour, uncle, parent or friend.”