THE principal of a 16-year-old boy who is critically ill after he was beaten during an attempted robbery has said pupils at the school have been left shocked.
Philip Convery suffered serious head injuries after he was attacked by two masked men at his grandmother’s bungalow near Magherafelt.
He underwent surgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
His 70-year-old grandmother and his 44-year old uncle were also attacked.
They were also treated in hospital.
The intruders who were carrying a firearm entered the isolated property on the Mayogall Road in Knockcloghrim at about 20:45 BST on Tuesday.
Philip is a pupil at St Patrick’s College, Maghera, and had gone to visit his uncle for help ahead of his GCSE maths exam when the attack happened.
School principal Anne Scott spoke to the teenager’s mother on Wednesday.
“He had gone to his grandmother’s to get help from his uncle because he was preparing for his GCSE maths which was on Wednesday,” she said.
“When these people came to the door, I think he just, on reaction, tried to protect his grandmother, so what he did was really quite heroic, and I suppose he is very lucky to be alive from what I have heard.”
She said the teenager was a “typical 16-year-old”.
“He’s one of those boys you would call a character when you met him, he always has a word for you, always had a smile and a chat,” she said.
“He was intent of getting his GCSEs and had an interview coming up next week.”
Ms Scott said there had been a sense of shock and disbelief among pupils when the news broke of the attack.
The principal also spoke to Philip’s aunt on Wednesday evening.
“At that stage he had just come out of surgery,” she said.
“They were a bit more positive about the future for him. He was in surgery for quite a long spell during the day because he had a leak in the brain.
“He certainly remains very critical and the next few days will certainly be a very worrying time for them I suspect.”
Parish Priest Father Paddy Baker knows the Convery family.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” he said.
“I spoke to his grandmother on Wednesday. They’re all thoroughly distressed.
“She was beaten across the legs, and her son Martin was beat as well, at that stage they were mostly concerned about Philip.
“This is a terrible, terrible ordeal for anyone to endure, particularly for this family, particularly for Mrs Convery herself who has had poor health and has been battling an illness recently so that is really the last thing that she or any family would want to come to their door.”
Father Baker said the church and the community were comforting the family with “support and prayers”.
“When the news began to leak out on Wednesday morning, people were really shocked and stunned and obviously feel very vulnerable themselves.
“They’re frightened for their own welfare and safety.”
Police have described it as a “vicious and sustained attack”.
PSNI Det Insp Una Jennings appealed to the public for help in catching the men responsible.
“A key part of this inquiry relates to the sighting of a dark, 4-door saloon vehicle which was seen in an around the area of the attack last night and we believe this vehicle was involved in the commission of the offence,” she said.
She added that police believed the car was a Vauxhall Vectra which had no rear number plate.
The car travelled in the direction of Portglenone and then towards Ballymena following the attempted robbery.
Det Insp Jennings said police had set up an incident room at Strand Road PSNI station in Londonderry and were keeping “an open mind” about who was behind the attack.