Northern Ireland news

Intruders hold knives to sisters' throats during west Belfast ordeal and threaten to kill their elderly mother

Sisters Lorraine Murtagh (left) and Bernie Kavanagh have told of the terrifying moment two armed and masked intruders held knives to their throats just yards from where their dying mother was lying in bed. Picture by Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

A WEST Belfast woman has told of the terrifying moment she and her sister were held at knifepoint by masked intruders who threatened to kill their gravely ill mother as she lay in bed.

Bernie Kavanagh (62) and Lorraine Murtagh (57) were pulled by the hair and beaten by two masked men who threatened that their mother Margaret (85) would be killed if they did not hand over money.

Both women had been staying at their mother's house in Westrock Gardens when the incident happened on Wednesday night.

After answering a knock at the door at around 11pm two masked men - wearing surgical masks and gloves - pushed their way into property.

A knife was held against Mrs Kavanagh's neck while a scalpel was used to threaten her sister.

The pair, believed to be in their 20s, threatened to harm their mother who has suffered a number of strokes and suffers from dementia and Alzheimer's.

Despite being told they had £500 in cash the intruders said they wanted more and also any medication. They eventually fled the property with a safe, which they wrapped in a blanket.

The family said it contained a large sum of cash which they had been saving every month to pay for their mother's funeral.

Mrs Kavanagh said there was also sentimental jewellery belonging to her late husband who died three years ago from brain cancer as well as other items of jewellery belonging to her mother.

Both women, who suffer angina, suffered minor injuries. However an ambulance was called as Mrs Kavanagh feared she was suffering a heart attack.

Mrs Kavanagh, who lives in Ballymurphy, described their ordeal as "really terrible".

"They wanted money and tablets," she said. "They were beating us and digging our heads.

"I said `My mummy is dying and he said `If you don't give us money, she will be dead'."

She revealed that as the pair left they wiped the front door handle and took the front door keys.

She said it was "awful" that the money saved for her mother's funeral had been stolen.

"We wanted to give her everything. Lilac flowers and white horses."

Mrs Kavanagh has urged other householders to be vigilant.

"I wouldn't want anyone to go through it," she said.

"It was terrible...knowing there is a woman lying dying there. To me, you couldn't get any lower than that."

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Northern Ireland news