herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Tiger kidnapper weeps as victim tells court of hell

A MAN who was involved in the tiger kidnapping of Kilkenny All Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family wept in court as Mr Ronan described the experience as "hell on earth"

Stephen Freeman (27) of Ballcurris Gardens, Ballymun, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on a trial date to attempting to steal cash with others from Bank of Ireland, Parliament Street, Kilkenny, on Tuesday November 3, 2009.

He also admitted using force on Adrian and Mary Ronan and their three children to frighten them.

In his victim impact statement, read in court yesterday, Mr Ronan said he wondered how he would he would cope if his wife was murdered.

He detailed how the armed men told him his wife "would get a bullet" and asked him if he wanted to lose his wife for Christmas.

He said he and his family continued to suffer the effects for long afterwards and explained how the family slept in the single room for 12 months after the raid.

The victim impact report of his wife, Mary Ronan, was read into the record by counsel. She detailed how she was held hostage for eight hours while not knowing of what "torture" her children might be going through.

Ms Ronan was brought to a disused weather station by the kidnappers and she said that after some hours one of the men took out a gun and fired above her head.

"I thought the next shot would be for me," she wrote

Money

The court heard that Stephen Freeman's role in the family's ordeal was to pick up and transport the money after the raid. However he couldn't drive so a gambling associate of his, who is a taxi-driver, was hired.

The case against Freeman was largely based on him admitting his role to this taxi-driver.

Patrick Treacy SC, prosecuting, told the court that the raiders knew there would be a "sizable" amount of cash in the bank after the Hallowe'en bank holiday weekend.

Det Insp Hennebry revealed that the Ronans woke at 5am to find three masked and armed men in their bedroom. One of the raiders brought the children downstairs and locked them in a bathroom with their mother.

They bound Mr Ronan's hands with cable ties and told him: "You're going to do a job for us. We're taking your wife and you're going to get us €3m."

The raiders continued to threaten Mr Ronan and his wife, saying: "You do what we tell you and no harm will happen to you. You f*** up and she's dead."

His wife was taken away to the weather station while Mr Ronan was told to drive to work with his three children in the car.

Scanner

The garda said the armed raiders gave Mr Ronan a mobile phone and showed him a phone scanner to warn him off contacting gardai.

He put them in a separate room in the bank and was in tears when he told the manager about the raiders' demands.

He received a number of phone calls over the morning about getting money.

One was from a gunman he recognised from the house and another from an unidentified male who sounded "cool and mature".

He expected a final call but it never came and a short time later gardai rang him to say his wife had been located unharmed. She had managed to free herself and run out on to the road after her captor had left.

The court heard Freeman has seven previous convictions at district court level.

The judge remanded Freeman on continuing bail to be sentenced later this month.

hnews@herald.ie

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