Aggravated burglary: The rise of a 'nasty' crime

Date22 February 2021
Published date22 February 2021
Publication titleIrish Times: Web Edition Articles (Dublin, Ireland)
By 5pm, Joe had drawn the curtains and lit the fire before settling in for the night. He had recently stopped driving due to his dementia and the absence of a car in the driveway made the house appear empty.

When there was a knock on the door 15 minutes later, Joe and Evelyn assumed it was one of their children come to wish them a happy new year; family members tended to knock rather than ring the bell.

Joe opened the door. Even if he was a younger, healthier man, he could have done little to stop what happened next. "Dad is about 5'1". He was a jockey so he is not a very big person," his daughter, Dymphna Murphy, says.

A masked man grabbed Joe by the throat, held a gun to his head (it was later discovered to be a realistic-looking imitation firearm) and pushed him towards the wall.

Four other men, also wearing balaclavas and dark clothing, followed in behind the first raider. One of them grabbed Evelyn, who suffers from vascular dementia, and held her down in a chair.

When Evelyn saw one of the men pushing her husband she had the presence of mind to stand up and tell them he has a heart condition. "If you hurt him, you will be done for manslaughter," she said.

"My mum is a very wily woman. She wouldn't suffer fools gladly," says Dymphna.

The men pushed Joe into a chair beside his wife. It was then that the couple noticed that, as well as the gun, the men were also armed with batons.

Three of them ransacked the house looking for money, searching through the 70 years of possessions the family had gathered while living there.

"And of course they got money because my parents don't know how to use the machine in the bank if there is no one there," says Dymphna.

A neighbour had heard the noises. He thought it was strange as the Keoghs were known as very quiet, religious people.

"But he assumed they were just having some fun on New Year's Eve," says their daughter. "The guards said it was as well he didn't come in because he's a big burly guy and things could have escalated."

The raiders escaped with about €23,000 in an ordeal which lasted about 10 minutes. A Garda unit, in the area to raid an illegal shebeen, was at the house a few minutes later but was too late to catch the gang.

Joe and Evelyn escaped serious injury but a month later, the Keogh family are still dealing with the psychological fallout.

"My mum took it very personally. She couldn't understand why someone would do this to her. She gives to charities. If someone knocked on the door looking for a...

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