€17k award for boy (11) in tiger kidnap ordeal
An 11-year-old schoolboy, who was held hostage during a tiger kidnapping five years ago, has been awarded more than €17,000 damages in the Circuit Civil Court against Bank of Ireland.
Barrister Justin McQuade told Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, that Stephen Smith was only five when kidnapped by armed criminals who stole almost €8m from the bank's branch at College Green, Dublin, on February 26, 2009.
Mr McQuade said Stephen's parents, Stuart and Elaine Smith, had been in Spain at the time and the boy had been staying for a few days with his aunt Stephanie.
Stephanie and her then partner and Bank of Ireland employee Shane Travers were both living with Stephen's grandparents, Kevin and Joan Smith, at Stone Bridge House, Badger Hill, Kill, Co Kildare.
The court heard that Stephanie and her mother, Joan, were returning home at night from an evening out when they were approached by a gang of men wearing balaclavas and pointing guns at them.
Mr McQuade told the court that the two women had tried to run into the house but could not close the door properly behind them and the men had forced their way inside.
Stephen's grandmother, Joan, had been punched in the face, thrown across a room and beaten. Stephanie, having pushed aside one the gunmen's firearms, had been hit several times on the head with the gun, thrown to the ground and then also beaten.
Meanwhile, the court heard, Mr Travers had been inside the house babysitting Stephen, asleep upstairs. Travers had tried to protect his girlfriend by throwing himself over her.
Stephanie and Joan had been held all night in the sitting room with tape over their eyes and their hands had been tied with cable wire, while Mr Travers had been held in another room.
The kidnappers had threatened the grandmother, Joan, that they would "blow her head off" and Mr Travers had been told he would be "kneecapped".
Mr McQuade told the court that the next morning, Mr Travers had been taken to the bank while Stephen, his aunt Stephanie and granny, Joan, had been bundled into the back of a van.
Counsel said the van, carrying Stephanie, Joan and young Stephen, had been driven until the driver learned that Mr Travers and other members of his gang had successfully entered the bank. The van had been stopped and the kidnappers had poured detergent in a bid to wipe out evidence. Stephen had experienced difficulty breathing.
Mr McQuade said the kidnappers left the scene and the grandmother, Joan, had managed to release herself and the others with a putty knife that had been left behind in the van.
Mr McQuade said Stephen had become fearful for a few months after the kidnapping. He had developed post- traumatic stress disorder and had trouble sleeping.
Through his parents Stuart and Elaine Smith, of The Stables, Badger Hill, Kill, Co Kildare, he had sued Bank of Ireland. It was claimed the bank owed a duty of care to co-habitees of a bank employee.
Mr McQuade told Judge Groarke that a settlement offer of €17,250 had been made by the bank without admission of liability and he was recommending acceptance of it. Judge Groarke approved of the settlement.