Walking through the front door, I breathed a happy sigh as I pulled off my gardening boots.
Time for a nice cuppa, I thought.
My day had been spent tending to some of my neighbours’ gardens.
I adored gardening and regularly helped out my friends and locals.
Living alone, I was looking forward to a relaxing evening.
Pottering about, I made dinner and popped out to my own garden, picking off the juicy strawberries that were ready for eating.
With all my jobs done, I locked up and took myself to bed for an early night.
After a long day, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
But then I woke with a start.
I could hear footseps coming down the hall.
Glancing at the clock, I noticed it was midnight.
‘Who is that, who is here?’ I called out.
Heart thudding in my chest, I leapt out of bed.
But before I could even switch on the light, three people came bursting through the door.
So shocked, I stumbled back on to the bed.
They were wearing masks and head torches - two were clutching ropes, while one had a metal baseball bat and another had a hammer.
It looked like they were all women.
‘Where’s your money? Give us the money,’ one of them growled.
Instantly, I recognised the voice.
I own a second-hand shop called Aladdin’s Cave, on the same road as my house.
I wondered if they thought I had lots of cash because of this.
Within seconds, one of them started bashing my legs with the bat.
Soon enough, they were all having a go.
Despite the pain, I kept quiet and tried to fight them off.
My mind raced with ways I could get out of this real life nightmare.
The bashing got stronger and they started on my shoulders.
‘If you don’t tell us where the money is, we’ll shoot you,’ one of them warned.
Not believing them, I stayed silent.
Whacking and beating me, their force got harder.
Struggling, I fought back.
But it was hard, there were three of them.
‘We’re going to tie you up,’ one woman hissed.
There was no way I was allowing that.
‘My money isn’t here, it’s at the other place,’ I gasped.
Then, one of them whacked the bat over my head.
They could kill me, I thought, as pain shot through me.
As one of the girls started rifling through my drawers, I saw her snatch up my mobile that was charging.
Then, someone hit me on the other side of the head.
I felt blood pouring out of me and several of my teeth flew out.
As I cried out in agony, the three women ran off.
Luckily, I had a landline in my room.
But feeling dazed, I couldn’t think of the number for the police.
Remembering my neighbour Tim’s number, I rang him instead.
‘I’ve been bashed,’ I babbled.
Within minutes, Tim and his wife Mary-Anne were over.
Covered in blood, I relayed the horror to them.
Police and paramedics arrived soon after.
At hospital, I was given pain relief and doctors stitched up the huge gash sprawling across my skull.
My upper body and thighs was black and blue and I’d lost five teeth.
When police interviewed me, I told them I recognised one of the voices – a woman called Shelly Freeman, 30.
Her mother lived across the road from me.
As a kid, she’d often visit my shop and I’d give her lollies.
How could she do such a horrible thing?
Police managed to track down the other two women – Tara Jayne Lewis, 29, and Rose-Lee Clarke, 24.
All three of them were charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated armed robbery and stealing.
As well as taking my mobile, they stole a six-pack of beer and ripped my landline off the wall.
It was all so violent for such little gain.
Discharged after four days, I went to stay with my nephew, Kimble.
He kindly fitted my house with new locks and a security camera.
I didn’t feel scared when I went back home two days later, but I did start sleeping with a wooden stick and golf club for protection.
Shelly Freeman, Tara Jayne Lewis and Rose-Lee Clarke - all mums - pleaded guilty to their charges.
The court heard that on the night of the attack in March 2019, they’d picked-up disguises and weapons before driving to my house and subjecting me to the horrifying 10-15 minute ordeal.
Lewis and Clarke were sentenced to three years in prison, while Freeman got three-and-a-half years.
I was disappointed they didn’t get longer.
Since the attack, I’ve been left with fatigue, headaches, eye sight issues and stomach pain.
Everyone in Fingal has been so supportive.
They’ll often check up on me at home to see how I’m doing.
And when I feel up to it, I still help with their gardening.
I still don’t understand why those women did such a nasty thing.
I would have been the first person to give them food if they were starving.
But I refuse to let their actions get me down.
Life is for living and I’m determined to keep enjoying mine.