'Courageous' boy (10) praised for saving sister in kidnapping
A 10-year-old boy has been hailed as a hero for his "courageous" actions in rescuing his sister when a man tried to abduct her.
The boy's brave actions were outlined during the sentencing hearing of Michael Martin (36), of Shandon Court, Yellow Road, Waterford city.
Martin pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of the 11-year-old girl following an incident at Cullohill, Co Laois, on March 4 last.
Garda Anne Marie Deegan told prosecuting counsel Will Fennelly that the 11-year-old girl and her brothers, twin 10-year-old boys, were playing at a rural location in Cullohill when they were approached by a man driving a jeep. The court heard the girl "was picked up and put into the SUV through the driver's door across the passenger seat".
The man then attempted to drive away, but one of the brothers "ran up, reached in and attempted to strike the driver in the vehicle". The boy then continued "hanging off" the jeep with his feet off the ground, Portlaoise Circuit Court was told yesterday.
When the jeep slowed, the youngster got off the vehicle and initially continued his pursuit on foot. However, he returned home when he noticed his sister and brother running in the direction of a house.
Garda Deegan said the three children were able to give a description and provide a partial registration of the jeep.
Mr Fennelly said "a large amount of garda resources and manpower was deployed to locating this vehicle and driver."
CCTV footage was taken from a nearby business and gardai became aware of an earlier report of a similar vehicle acting suspiciously at Durrow.
Martin was arrested the following day when the vehicle was stopped outside Castlecomer and he was brought to Portlaoise for questioning. He admitted to stealing the jeep, but "at no time during these interviews did he admit that it was he who attempted to abduct this child", the court was told.
Both the girl and her brother later identified the defendant in two separate identity parades at Portlaoise Garda Station. Martin pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in July.
Garda Deegan described the siblings as "exceptional children" and Mr Fennelly agreed that "they were obviously very courageous children" and he commended the "plucky" brother. Garda Deegan also praised the local community for their assistance in the investigation.
A victim-impact statement compiled by the girl's father said "this man stole a significant portion of her innocence".
The incident had affected her confidence and "our lives were permanently changed that day", he stated. "You don't like to see your children being fearful of everyday ordinary things," the father added.
The court heard Martin, who is originally from Dublin, has 92 previous convictions. The majority of the convictions are for fraud and robbery but also included a conviction for an assault of a girl, threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a woman and, in another incident, false imprisonment.
Defending barrister, Una Ni Raifeartaigh handed the judge a detailed 16-page psychological report on her client.
"His childhood makes for grim reading," she explained.
Her client left school at 12 and had been subjected to sexual, physical abuse and sustained neglect as a child and had begun abusing alcohol before leaving school, said Ms Ni Raifeartaigh. He had "an abusive dysfunctional childhood without any love in it", she remarked.
Ms Ni Raifeartaigh said her client had a very low IQ and was diagnosed with a mild mental handicap. As he sobbed in court, she described him as "actively suicidal" and asked that some counselling or therapy be included in the sentence.
Judge Keenan Johnson remanded Martin in custody to appear again next Thursday when sentencing continues.