Northern Ireland

Markethill: Teenager describes gunpoint burglary ordeal

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Media captionMarkethill: Teenager describes gunpoint burglary ordeal

A teenager has said she thought she was going to be killed when an armed gang of burglars smashed their way into her home and pointed a gun at her head.

Chloe Hawthorne, 17, was home alone in Markethill, County Armagh, on Tuesday afternoon when the gang broke in.

They threatened to shoot her and forced her to walk on broken glass without her shoes as they demanded her car keys.

Police are linking the burglary to a gun theft at a nearby house and a crash involving a car stolen in Dublin.

"I thought they were going to kill me," Chloe told BBC Radio Ulster.

"Especially when they were shouting 'I'll shoot if you don't give me the keys'.

Image caption The gang crashed their stolen vehicle into this car being driven by a local woman

"I thought that was it. You kind of imagine these situations happening and you don't think they are going to happen to you," the teenager said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said they are "investigating a link" between the burglary and a spate of crimes in Markethill on Tuesday.

They said a Vauxhall Insignia, which had been reported stolen in the Republic of Ireland, collided with a car on the Seagahan Road shortly before 16:40 BST.

A number of men who were in the stolen car left the scene.

The PSNI added that less then an hour later, a house on the Damoily Road was broken into and ransacked.

The burglars stole jewellery and a legally held firearm.

Image caption The gang smashed the window of the kitchen door to gain entry to the house in Markethill

Speaking to the BBC, Chloe described how a short time later, an armed gang of up to four men approached her kitchen from fields at the back of her family home.

"The first one was carrying a gun and he came over and saw me standing at the back door, inside.

"I kind of just froze, and they were shouting 'open the door, open the door'.

Smashed glass

She said she "edged back" into the kitchen but the gang then tried to kick down the door.

"That didn't work and then there was a stone on the kerbie [recycling] box and they lifted it and smashed the glass."

The gang broke into the house through a utility room window.

Chloe had her mobile phone in her hand and tried to ring her uncle but the intruders saw this and stole her phone.

"They kept pointing the gun in my face, saying 'where's your car keys, where's your car keys?'

Image caption Chloe Hawthorne spoke to UUP MLA Danny Kennedy at her home on Wednesday

"They kept shouting 'give the keys or I'll shoot'," she added.

"At this stage, the glass was all on the floor and I had just socks on. They made me step across the glass and show them where the keys were."

The gang then escaped back though the window and drove off at speed in Chloe's new car.

Her father said he believed the gang had carried out another burglary at a property close to their home and had been involved in an earlier car theft in Dublin.

"That Dublin registration car then collided with a car at the end of our road," he said.

'Getaway car'

"Both cars were severely damaged in that and the lady who was driving the [other] car actually was taken to hospital."

He said the gang abandoned the stolen car and "made their way across a few fields to our house and obviously needed another getaway car".

Mr Hawthorne said his nephew later spotted Chloe's white Ford Fiesta travelling towards, Newry, County Down, "undertaking" several vehicles on the hard shoulder.

The PSNI said Chloe's car was recovered in the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday evening.

They added that the woman who was involved in the Seagahan Road car crash was "treated in hospital for a number of non-life threatening injuries".