herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Caught on CCTV -- the getaway driver who helped destroy 11 cars in €284k garage arson

GUILTY: 'Spur of the moment' act to pay off drug debts

A young Dubliner helped to torch a car dealership "on the spur of the moment" to clear a drug debt.

Eleven vehicles were completely destroyed in the blaze, 17 others suffered damage and the car dealership building suffered €46,348 worth of damage.

Patrick Harcourt (22) was caught after CCTV footage from a nearby shop showed him pulling up outside the Ford dealership in his Volkswagen Passat minutes before the attack at midnight on March 12, 2007.

The CCTV captured one of Harcourt's passengers getting out of the car with a petrol container and returning minutes later to flee the scene.

Defence lawyer Patrick Marrinan told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that Harcourt, of Dunne Street Flats, Dublin 1, agreed to be a getaway driver "on the spur of the moment".

He said Harcourt decided to take part so he could clear a drug debt, making his involvement "at minimum level".

Harcourt pleaded guilty to causing damage by fire to vehicles and property at Fort Motors, Walkinstown, on March 12, 2007. He had 12 previous convictions for minor offences.

Garda Sergeant Barry Butler told the court that the 50-year-old dealership, which employs over 50 people, suffered a total loss of €284,202 and its insurance cost has risen to €250,000.

Sgt Butler told prosecutor Pat McGrath that gardai tracked down Harcourt using CCTV footage of his car's registration.

They also placed him at the scene through cell site analysis on a mobile phone seized during a raid on his home, despite him naming his girlfriend as an alibi.

Conor Byrne, a children's charity worker, who has known the defendant since he was eight, told the court that Harcourt's drug addict mother died in 2001 leaving his sister, who was 15 at the time, to raise him.

Mr Marrinan said that his client started taking drugs because of his friend's death around the time of the offence, but that he was now clean.

Judge Patricia Ryan remanded Harcourt on continuing bail, pending a probation report.

hnews@herald.ie

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