THE AGE of leaving the car unlocked or the door ‘on the latch’ would seem to be at an end with the latest cynical crime spree – the targeting of the cars of church-goers during Mass – being described as a wake-up call for people here.
People attending Mass at St Mary’s Church in Teemore on Saturday returned to their cars to find that a number of them had been broken into by heartless thieves. Among the items taken were mobile phones and money.
It is thought that the same gang may have been involved in a number of similar incidents that morning with church-goers also being targeted at the Catholic church at Killesher and across the county at the Church of Ireland church at Castle Archdale.
Two vehicles parked at the Florencecourt Forest Car Park were also broken into, as part of the crime spree. Money and two iPhones were stolen by the perpetrators.
It all began between 9.40am and 10.10am on Sunday when two cars were broken into while parked directly outside St Mary’s Church in Teemore. Fr Fintan McKiernan was celebrating Mass at the time of the incident.
“The thieves had broken the window and were taking something out of the car when a passer by spotted it, a man from Kinawley was going past,” he explained.
“It’s a bit of a shock. Police were watching it two Sundays before, because they have been breaking into a lot of cars around Florencecourt. It’s a shame that the young lassie was targeted especially directly in front of the church. It was bold enough, very bold.”
Joe Donnelly was attending the Mass, but didn’t become aware of the incident until afterwards. He said the thefts were a wake-up call.
“It’s sad, but of course the other side of the coin is people shouldn’t leave items in full view when somebody is around the car. Obviously this must have been in view when the person went to the car, because you don’t just select a particular car unless there’s a reason.
“In country areas people tend to be a bit more trusting. The majority of people going into the mass are people you know and you think you’re safe enough, but these people can come along and that’s the tragedy of it.”
After Teemore it is believed the thieves then moved onto St Patrick’s Church, Castle Archdale, where three cars were broken into at around 11.15am, again during the morning service. From there the thieves then appear to have crossed back to south Fermanagh to target the Catholic church at Killesher.
Mass began at midday and at around 12.20pm Sean Corrigan, who lives beside the church noticed suspicious activity.
“I looked out and saw a car drive past on the road and I saw this person juke down. I thought what’s he doing and them saw him moving from car to car. I knew then what he was at so I opened the door of the house and just let roars out of me. As soon as I roared and I went out a little further two of them ran and jumped into a car and made off in a car.”
Parish priest Fr Gabriel Kelly said unfortunately these attacks are becoming all too common.
“It’s just very sad, but it’s just a sign of the times we’re living in. Everyone’s just going to have to try and take more care.”
Police inspector Roy Robinson believes all the incidents are linked and two or three males were involved. Police are looking for a light blue Opel Astra with a southern registration.
The vehicle has damage to the driver’s side and the rubber tubing which runs along the door and the main part of the car is missing. Mr Robinson has asked all motorists to ensure their vehicles are locked and belongings are hidden from view at all times.
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