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‘Homophobic’ attack with drill left hole in victim’s skull

The drill attack happened in Strabane, Co Tyrone at about 2am on Saturday. Credit: UTV

A 17-year-old boy has been remanded in custody over a suspected homophobic attack carried out with a cordless drill on a woman in Co Tyrone.

The attack happened in the Railway Street area of Strabane in the early hours of Saturday morning and left 38-year-old Brenda McLaughlin critically injured.

On Monday, Omagh Magistrates’ Court heard that the victim has a circular hole in her skull, but there does not appear to be any brain damage.

It is my understanding that the victim has since told medical staff that she heard the noise of the drill and felt her head being twisted.

– PSNI detective

Police have not established whether the injury was caused by blunt force or a drill bit.

The woman remains in a high-dependency unit in Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.

A detective told the court that the defendant, who cannot be named because of his age, was arrested a short time after the attack and shouted paramilitary slogans at police.

The court further heard that there is no connection between the victim and the accused, although both had been at Ruby’s nightclub in Strabane prior to the incident.

The detective said it is not yet known what the trigger was for the attack.

This was a grossly violent, inexplicably violent incident.

– District Judge Peter King

Ms McLaughlin told officers she believed she was targeted because she is homosexual and the incident is being treated as a hate crime.

The teenager is accused of having an offensive weapon, namely a power drill which was stolen from the nightclub.

He is also alleged to have unlawfully and maliciously caused grievous bodily harm to the victim, or intended to cause her grievous bodily harm.

A police patrol was alerted by members of the public that a woman was lying injured on the ground with blood coming from her head and lapsing in and out of consciousness. She was also having fits and seizures.

There does appear to be some sort of hole in the skull, but I cannot say how severe it is.

– PSNI detective

The court further heard that CCTV footage was taken at Ruby’s and outside on the street which showed the accused in good spirits and playing with the drill “as if it is a gun”.

The detective said it showed the accused in possession of a drill 10 minutes before police found the victim.

A defence solicitor told the court that the teenager does not bear any ill will towards the gay and lesbian community.

However, rejecting a bail application, District Judge Peter King said he was concerned about the homophobic overtones of the case and remanded the boy in custody.

He is due to appear via video link at Strabane Magistrates’ Court on 18 May.