Suspected homophobic drill attack leaves mom with hole in skull


A 17-year-old boy appeared in Omagh Magistrate’s Court yesterday in connection with an assault on a 38-year-old gay woman with a cordless power drill.

Brenda McLaughlin and the alleged attacker were at were at Ruby’s nightclub in Strabane, Co Tyrone, early on Saturday morning. McLaughlin had left and was making her way home along Railway Street when she was attacked. The incident happened around 2am.

After checking security footage, police suspect the attacker used a power tool in the assault. There is no evidence the bit was in the drill at the time of the attack. The drill was later recovered by police.

When police were called to the scene they found McLaughlin – a mom of one – on the ground and bleeding from her head. She was lapsing in and out of consciousness.

She was rushed to a high-dependency unit in Altnagelvin Hospital. Her condition was at first thought life-threatening but this was later downgraded. She was able to tell police that she believed she had been attacked because she is gay.

‘She heard the noise of the drill and felt her head being twisted’

A Police Service of Northern Ireland detective told the court, ‘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.

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

He said she appears to have avoided damage to her brain, but there is a ‘circular’ hole in her scalp.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

The 17-year-old faces charges of stealing a power drill from the nightclub, and is alleged to have unlawfully and maliciously caused grievous bodily harm to McLaughlin or intended to do her GBH (grievous bodily harm).

District Judge Peter King described the incident as ‘grossly violent.’

The teenager has been remanded in custody and will appear again via video link at Strabane Magistrates’ Court on 18 May.

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