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Burglar 'grabbed kids and told parents they would be shot in knees'

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Stephen Darby was treated at Letterkenny Hospital

Stephen Darby was treated at Letterkenny Hospital

Stephen Darby was treated at Letterkenny Hospital

A man who claimed to be a member of the notorious Westies gang told a terrified family he would get the mob to riddle their home with bullets and then petrol-bomb them.

Stephen Darby broke into the home of the family in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, days before last Christmas.

He was accompanied by another man and they went upstairs to the couple's bedroom and terrorised them.

At one stage Darby, who had 83 previous convictions, picked up two small children under his arms and continued to make threats.

He told the couple he was a member of the Clondalkin gang and he would also have them shot in the back of the knees if they did not do what he said.

The male victim began to scuffle with Darby and the accused tripped and fell down the stairs and was knocked unconscious.

Gardai arrived at the house and he was taken to Letterkenny Garda Station before being taken to Letterkenny University Hospital.

The other man with Darby, who claimed he had relatives in the house at Admiran Park, was also arrested.

Darby, originally from Dublin but who has been living in Donegal on and off, appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty to burglary.

Barrister for Darby, Peter Nolan, said his client had downed a bottle of whiskey and merely thought the other man was calling to the house to change his clothing.

However, when he arrived, the other man kicked the door in and began to shout at the terrified couple and their family.

Mr Nolan claimed his client was trying to calm matters down when he was pushed down the stairs and had little recollection of the events.

However, the couple's victim impact statement revealed their fear.

Scared

The woman said: "It has changed my entire outlook on life, the way someone can make you feel so scared for your life and your loved ones. I was petrified.

"How an uninvited stranger with a knock on the door can come in and put myself and my family through this terrifying ordeal.

"The most hurtful part was when he reached for my boys. If the gardai had been any later I dread to think what would have happened.

"I was always a very strong person but now I suffer with anxiety and pains in my chest. It just broke me."

Darby, whose previous convictions include firearms offences, burglary, robbery, escaping from lawful custody, assault, trespass and larceny, apologised to the family in court.

"I let myself go and it was never my intention to do that. When I have drink, I don't think," he said.

His mother, Maureen Crowe, said her son had a terrible life and was beaten as a child by his father.

He was also put into St Joseph's Christian Brothers School in Clonmel where she alleges he was sexually abused.

Mr Nolan added his suggestions that he was part of the Westies were just "fantasy".

He had been in prison in some form for 35 of his 47 years.

Judge John Aylmer agreed to adjourn the case until July and ordered psychiatric and probation reports on Darby.