Northern Ireland

Kinawley and Belturbet armed robberies could be linked

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Media captionMonsignor Michael Cooke's parish office was robbed. Julian Fowler reports for BBC Newsline

Two women threatened by robbers while counting church envelopes at a County Fermanagh parish office have been left traumatised, a priest has said.

Police are investigating if the same gang was involved in armed raids in Kinawley and at a parochial house in Belturbet, County Cavan.

Money was stolen from the house in Kinawley and mobile phones and car keys taken in Belturbet.

A gang of three men, one armed with a hammer, was involved in both incidents.

The County Cavan incident started at about 18:45 GMT on Monday, the Kinawley raid at about 20:00 GMT.

Kinawley priest Fr Gabriel Kelly said he was both sad and angry after the robbery.

"Thankfully nobody was hurt but the two female volunteers were deeply traumatised by it," he said.

"Here you have people giving up their time freely and to have something like that happen to them is very, very sad.

"One of the gang was carrying a hammer, so it was very threatening."

Belturbet priest Fr Michael Cooke said he was having tea with his housekeeper when three men knocked at his back door.

"They came walking in and said 'sit down and continue what you're at, where's the money?'" he said.

Two of the men - one armed with a knife - rummaged through the house and checked a safe, while the third, who had a hammer, stayed with them.

Fr Cooke said they were not overly aggressive and he even offered the man with the hammer a cup of tea, which he declined

"I didn't feel frightened, my housekeeper was terrified - it was the worst ordeal she had ever experienced," he said.

"I was disappointed that it was happening but I didn't feel threatened overly."

Police said the men were all wearing hooded tops and it is believed they made off in a dark coloured saloon car.