THE OWNER of a Lenadoon shop that has been targeted in six separate robberies – four of them armed – in the space of just a few months has called for the full rigours of the law to be applied to the perpetrators before someone is seriously hurt.

John Ryan, owner of Ryan’s shop in Carrigart Avenue, was speaking to the Andersonstown News after the local business was targeted yet again by armed robbers on Sunday evening – the fourth such incident since October. This latest attack on the shop was carried out by four robbers.

Brandishing a large machete-type knife, one of the thugs demanded money and cigarettes from terrified staff.

Just over a week previously, on Valentine’s Day, the shop was targeted in another armed robbery when a female brandishing a hammer entered the shop, threatened staff and left with a sum of money.

On January 26, a male entered the shop armed with a knife and took a sum of money, and on October 31, 2011, another armed robbery took place, again carried out by a male brandishing a knife who also made off with money. There have also been two attempted robberies carried out on the shop over this same period.

The family-run business has served the people of Lenadoon for close-on 40 years and the Ryan family are popular and highly-respected in the district where there’s widespread revulsion at what the family and their staff are being put through.

John Ryan says if the robberies continue “Someone will  be seriously injured or worse – killed.”

“We’ve done everything we can after each robbery,” said John. “We’ve reported the attacks to the police, we’ve provided CCTV recordings, we’ve given statements, we’ve been vigilant and taken precautions, with only limited petty cash for the till on the premises, limited cigarettes and increased CCTV.  Local people too have been vigilant.

“On one occasion a would-be robber preparing to enter the shop armed with a hammer was apprehended by the PSNI after local people intervened, but nothing was done and from our point of view we find this very frustrating. Obviously we know that not every crime can be solved, but the overall response by the PSNI to the spate of armed robberies that we have experienced needs to be better. The PSNI need to act now before it’s too late. These are not young kids carrying out petty robberies, these involve criminals armed with hammers and knives intent on inflicting injury should staff in any way fail to cooperate with their demands. The situation is just altogether out of control and I fear that if these people do not face the full rigour of the law then someone will be seriously injured or worse – killed.

“In the wake of the awful murder of Harry Holland [the Glen Road greengrocer who was slain in 2008 trying to prevent his delivery van from being stolen] what does it take for the authorities to wake up to the real dangers posed here?”

Mr Ryan added that he has discussed the robberies with other shopkeepers in West Belfast.

“Unfortunately they have also experienced similar ordeals and they too feel that more could be done by the PSNI and the courts,” he said.

The shopkeeper thanked the local community for showing support to the business.

“This is a family-run business with over three decades of service to the local community and we’re very much part of this community,” said John. “We would like to thank the local community for their support and solidarity following these incidents.”

A police spokesperson told us yesterday: “Enquiries into previous incidents are ongoing and all investigative opportunities – including CCTV and witness descriptions – are being explored to determine if there are links between these incidents.

“Working in partnership with local communities, the Police Service of Northern Ireland will continue to gather and compile evidential material, translate this information into charges and bring individuals involved before the courts.  The support of the community plays an invaluable role in this process.”

Four arrests have been made by police in connection to Sunday’s incident. A 16-year-old female and two men aged 18 and 45 were charged with robbery in relation to the incident and appeared before Belfast Magistrates Court this week.

A 19-year-old man who was also arrested and questioned by police was subsequently released by police without charge.