A GERMAN tourist in a wheelchair had her woollen hat stolen from her head by a cruel gang of six young thugs in Limerick city centre.
To make matters worse they teased the young woman for amusement by holding the hat over her head as she tried to grab it.
But they were unaware that they had been spotted by a former League of Ireland soccer goalkeeper, Ian Bennis and ex Irish table tennis star Billy Marshall, who ended up saving the day.
The incident occurred when six youths approached two teenage girls, one whom was in a wheelchair, and stole their woollen hats at the corner of the busy junction of O’Connell Street and Sarsfield Street, near Debenhams.
The group of youths laughed and jeered at the two girls as the girl in the wheelchair tried to pursue the thieves. Two passers-by approached the youths and tried to stop them and managed to grab one of the hats.
One of the youths continued to laugh at the girl in the wheelchair and for the amusement of his friends held her hat up high as she tried to grab it.
However, the cowardly act was being witnessed by Marshall and Bennis who were working on Sarsfield Street as part of the Premier Industrial Cleaning & Maintenance crew contracted by Limerick City Council to clean up the city streets for Christmas.
The youths proceeded to head towards Sarsfield bridge but were corralled and intercepted. When they saw the furious 6ft 3’’ frame of Bennis approaching them at speed they stopped in their tracks and handed back the garment without hesitation.
Mr Bennis returned the hat to the young wheelchair bound woman, who was stunned as to what had happened. When he realised that the girls were not from Ireland, he apologised to them for what they had encountered.
“I was sickened by what I had witnessed,’’ said Ian.
“We come across a lot of different incidents working through the night in the city but this has to be the worst.
“When I saw the youth tease the disabled girl my heart sank. We could not take any more and abandoned our machinery to do what was right.
“Those youths and their parents should be ashamed of themselves,” he concluded.