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Byline: Marion Scott

A HERO Scots nun kept her terrified patients calm yesterday as a gang of machete-wielding thugs attacked her AIDS hospital in Kenya.

Sister Placida McCann's priest, Father Gerry Roach, had been murdered by the same gang just days earlier.

But despite still being in mourning, Sister Placida kept her cool when the raiders returned. And she and the patients barricaded themselves inside the hospital until help arrived and the gunmen fled.


Father Gerrywasalmost beheaded by the gang in a savage attack last Thursday.

The killers stole the priest's laptop and it's believed they were looking for more loot when they targeted Sister Placida's Life in Hope centre in the town of Motobo.

Hugh Farmer, a former editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer, said: "Following the very violent murder of Father Gerry, the community was still in shock when the gang struck again, this time at the clinic where Sister Placida lives and works.

"It was night time and everyone was justifiably terrified after what had happened to Father Gerry. But the raiders didn't manage to get what they wanted this time.

"Nobody was hurt and Sister Placida kept everyone calm.

"After getting away with Father Gerry's laptop, the raiders obviously thought there must be items worth taking at the hospital's office.

"Luckily, they didn't manage to break in."

Father Gerry, 60, who spent many years in Kenya with the Order of Kiltegan Fathers, was slaughtered in his own home by the gang.

Hugh, who is close to the Order, said: "He was murdered in the most horrific way imaginable and others in the community now fear an escalation of similar attacks.

"Despite being so well-known in the area where he worked tirelessly, Father Gerry was attacked by robbers carrying machetes at his home.

"The blows were so severe they cut his throat and his head was almost severed - all for the sake of a laptop worth a couple of hundred pounds.

"When the robbers struck, Father Gerry fought back and it cost him his life.


"His Order are in shock and mourning. He dedicated his life to helping people in Kenya.

"It is heartbreaking to think such a wonderful man lost his life for a laptop."

Hugh added: "The implications for the rest of the Catholic community, who do so much good out there, are immense."

It was the second time Sister Placida's work in Kenya had put her life in danger.

Two years ago, the Greenockborn Franciscan nun sheltered 1500 terrified local people from a marauding gang of Kikuyu tribesmen as violence swept the country after a disputed general election result.

The thugs ran through the streets of Motobo, destroying homes, raping women and killing men and children.

But Sister Placida and the other nuns at the Franciscan Order of the Immaculate Conception prevented a far worse slaughter by standing up to the mob.

Hugh said: "Sister Placida told the attackers she was a Scots lassie who didn't scare easily - and she was true to her word."

He added: "Following the violence in 2007, there was a walk of sorrow. The Sisters are expecting a similar walk of sorrow over the murder of Father Gerry."

Scotland's Cardinal,KeithO'Brien, visited Sister Placida and Father Gerry in Motobo just last month. He was horrified when he was told of the priest's murder.

The Cardinal said: "I'm deeply saddened by the terrible news and my thoughts are with Father Gerry's family and his fel low priests back home.

"It is hard to believe that this terrible horror has taken place just four weeks after we spent such a happy time in the very place where he was murdered."

Sister Loyola Kelly, Mother General of the Franciscan Order, said: "Father Gerry's death is a t ragedy and it has cer tainly brought fear to our community.


"We can only hope and pray the police have success in finding his killers.

"The convent and the hospital have much stronger security than Father Gerry had at his home.

"But we do not want a repeat of this violence."

Father Gerry was born and brought up in the Irish town of Limerick but spent most of his adult life working in Kenya.

His family will decide today whether to bring his body home, or to bury him in the country he loved so much.


CALM BEFORE THE HORROR: Father Gerry with Cardinal O'Brien just weeks before he was murdered. ABOVE: Sister Placida
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 14, 2009
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