Church crow bar attacker hugged victim

Maureen Creaney, who was hit with a crowbar during a robbery at St Patrick's Church in Portadown on Friday, pictured last night with flowers she has received from well-wishers following the attack. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Connla Young

A PENSIONER has told how a robber hugged her seconds after hitting her with a crowbar during a robbery in a Co Armagh church.

Great grandmother Maureen Creaney last night said she was still in shock following the attack in St Patrick's Catholic Church in Portadown on Friday afternoon.

The 74-year-old had gone into the church on William Street to pray when she saw a man standing beside the candles.

She said as she approached she asked the man jokingly if he was “raiding the wee box”.

“He turned around and he was robbing the box, he was breaking into it with a big iron bar,” she said.

“He looked at me and said ‘I'm badly off, I'm badly off'.”

She said he fled into the foyer of the church before returning and demanding money from her.

“He said give me your money and I said ‘I have not got any', I knew then it was serious,” she said.

“I had a lot of money in that bag and I went to walk away and he hit me on the shoulder with the crowbar.

“I was very surprised I didn't go down,” she said.

Ms Creaney, whose husband Kevin died in 2012, said she handed over £40 but the man demanded the remainder of her cash, another £100, which he then took.

Bizarrely her attacker then hugged his victim twice and offered to pay the cash back.

“He then hugged me and said ‘I didn't mean to do this',” Mrs Creaney said.

“He then hugged me again.”

“He said 'leave your number in the church and I will ring you and have your money back here at 8pm tonight'.”

Mrs Creaney said she was frightened when her attacker hugged her.

“I thought, is he going to do something else to me, I had this awful feeling,” she said.

Before leaving the church Ms Creaney said the attacker asked her to ‘give me two minutes ‘till I get away' before leaving herself.

The pensioner said she is still coming to terms with her ordeal.

“It was terrible, I'm still in shock, I didn't know where to turn,” she said.

After eventually venturing outside she raised the alarm.

The frightened pensioner said she hopes the experience will not put her off visiting the church again.

The pensioner said police were later able to view footage captured on cameras placed in the church.

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Duffy said he was “disgusted” by the incident.

“People in the area can't believe it,” he said.

“That someone in the area would stoop so low in the first place and to do it in the chapel is even lower,” he said.

A 45-year-old man has been charged with attempted theft, robbery, going equipped for theft, and possession of an offensive weapon with intent.

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