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Two pharmacists stabbed in 'vicious' attack over Tramadol

Two pharmacists were stabbed in James McDonagh Pharmacy in west Belfast yesterday (April 6).

The suspect entered the pharmacy on Falls Road at around 9.30am, where he threatened the owner and a locum before attacking them, the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

PSNI confirmed that a man in his 40s sustained a stab wound to his arm, while a second sustained a wound to his chest. Their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, PSNI added.

Read the owner's account of the attack below.

Police also confirmed a 26-year-old suspect had been detained at the scene on suspicion of offences – including attempted murder and attempted robbery – and is currently in custody.

Security concerns

A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland said there is a “recognised drug problem” in Belfast – and Northern Ireland more widely – and prescription drugs “seem to be part of the problem”.

He added that there have been “several” attacks on pharmacies in west Belfast "in recent times".

Sheelin McKeagney, chair of Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland, said he would be talking to police and the Department of Health about how pharmacists can improve their personal security.

Mr McKeagney said the attack was “shocking” and would have been a traumatic experience for the members of staff.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the attack and have asked anyone with information to contact detective sergeant Michael Hawthorne at Musgrave Police Station by calling 101 and quoting reference number 249 of 06/04/17, or calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The pharmacy owner's account

"A guy came into the shop and he had a balaclava on. He came round to the dispensary and was looking for Tramadol, so I said, ‘You're not getting any medication’. Then he stabbed [locum pharmacist] Peter [Wright] in the chest,” pharmacy owner Paul McDonagh told C+D.

“Peter just said ‘calm down’ and then the next thing [the attacker] has stuck a knife in his chest," Mr McDonagh said. “Peter is in his 60s. To stab anyone in the chest is bad enough, but to do it to a 60-year-old man is horrific.”

“After that he came [over] to attack me. There was a brief struggle and I was stabbed in the arm, the groin and the hand.”

The pharmacist added that he was “flattered” by the number of customers and local people who had rallied around to offer support after the attack.

Mr McDonagh returned to the pharmacy today (April 7), but Mr Wright, though discharged from hospital, is not fit to return to work yet, Mr McDonagh added.

What can pharmacies do to protect themselves from crime?

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