Northern Ireland

Woman who found intruder in home warns others to stay secure

Therese Kearney has urged others to be vigilant after finding an intruder in her home on Friday night
Image caption Therese Kearney has urged others to be vigilant after finding an intruder in her home on Friday night

A woman who found an intruder in her home in west Belfast on Friday has urged others to be extra vigilant about security in the run up to Christmas.

Therese Kearney had just put her 10-month-old baby to bed, when she heard another person in the house at about 20:30 GMT.

Assuming it was her husband returning early from a Christmas party, she went to her hallway, where she found a teenage boy of around 16 years old.

The boy fled, taking her car keys.

However, unable to start the automatic car, he and another male ran from the house.

Appealing to others to keep their doors locked, even when inside the house, Mrs Kearney said: "It's hard to believe teenagers or anyone would have the nerve to just walk into your house, with the lights and TV on, and attempt to rob you.

"If it wasn't for the baby gate, I'd say he would have gone up the stairs.

"Unfortunately, we had the car and house key on a hook beside the door - which I'll never do again. I saw the keys missing and went out to the car when they'd gone.

'Lucky escape'

"I could see the house keys sitting in the car but couldn't see the car keys. Then the police came and they actually found them still in the ignition.

"I'm just relieved they didn't take it."

Police also found a lighter in the car, which has been removed for forensic examination.

Although shaken by the incident, the County Armagh woman, who has only recently moved to Belfast, said she feels she had a "lucky escape".

"It could have been so much worse and I'm thankful that they didn't get anything, but it's an awful feeling to have someone just walk into your house like that, thinking that they can just lift your property.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Police have been urging the public to protect their properties over the Christmas period

"For an elderly or vulnerable person, that kind of experience can be really traumatic.

"Even for us, to have been left without a car, especially in the weeks before Christmas, would have caused us a huge amount of stress, financially and practically."

Mrs Kearney said she was told by police that there has been a spate of burglaries in Belfast in recent days.

The mother-of-one's home was not the only one in west Belfast to be targeted - two men were arrested after a separate burglary in Stockmans Court on Friday night.

On Saturday night, officers on patrol in the Divis area arrested an 18-year-old man for burglary.

"They said there've been a lot of break-ins, probably because houses are full of presents at this time of year, so I just want to warn others to keep their doors locked.

"Even when you're in the house, keep them locked and in the door so that you can unlock it quickly in the case of a fire, and never ever put your car keys beside the door like we did.

"These people don't think of the consequences for the people they're robbing - they're only thinking of themselves."