‘I was beaten out of estate with a baseball bat for being Protestant - and given death threat’

A Co Armagh man who was beaten up and issued a death threat for living in a “republican estate” in south Armagh says he can’t forget his brutal ordeal.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 11th December 2021, 12:32 pm

On 19 November police reported an aggravated burglary at the St Matthews Estate in Keady, saying three masked men entered a house with a baseball bat and a crowbar and struck the occupant a number of times before leaving.

On 24 November south Armagh reconciliation worker Ian Bothwell, of Crossfire Trust in nearby Darkley House, issued a statement with more detail. Now the victim, ‘Paul’ has told the News Letter exactly what happened.

“I can’t forget it,” he said. He was watching television when his front door opened and three masked men entered his living room and accused him of being an ex-prisoner from Lurgan, both of which he rejected.

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Paul's thighs were severely bruised after being beaten with a baseball bat in Keady while watching television in his living room.

“Then they hit me on the legs with a baseball bat. They said I was from Darkley House, which they said was full of Protestants. And they said I was living in a republican estate and was a Protestant, so I had 24 hours to get out or they would put a bullet in my head. And then they hit me again in the legs and left.”

Police said it was an aggravated burglary, but Paul insists this is not accurate. “They assaulted me and gave me 24 hours to get out. So I would class it as a sectarian act,” he said.

Mr Bothwell said false rumours were spread after the attack that Paul is a registered sex offender and that “republicans that he knows and loves” in south Armagh would never carry out such an attack.

The News Letter contacted Sinn Fein and the SDLP for reaction. A Sinn Féin spokesperson responded: “There is absolutely no place for sectarianism in our society. Anyone with information about this incident should come forward and report it to the police.”

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty contacted Mr Bothwell to offer his support. “Anyone who enters a vulnerable adult’s home as part of a masked and hooded gang, armed with iron bars and baseball bats is a coward and is a criminal, but to then try and assassinate his character after the fact is completely abhorrent,” Mr McNulty told the News Letter.

Noting that there is a live PSNI investigation, he added. that “if the victim was attacked because he was a Protestant, then that is, of course, a sectarian hate crime”. The attack “horrified” many people in Keady, he said, describing the town as “a great place with very decent people”.

Mr Bothwell praised the SDLP for their support. “They have been very good at listening and took me by surprise at the level of personal interest in the victim’s welfare,” he said.

Asked if they were treating the attack as a hate crime, a PSNI spokeswoman said: “Enquiries are continuing and a sectarian hate crime motivation is one line of enquiry”.


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