herald

Thursday 24 January 2019

Jail for robbers who left half-blinded security man in boot of car for 10 hours

Security guard was treated at Portlaoise General
Security guard was treated at Portlaoise General

Three masked men who robbed a rail depot and imprisoned a security guard in the boot of his car have been jailed for six years.

Martin Cunningham (36), Patrick Cunningham (21) and Patrick Martin (28) were looking for copper wiring to help pay off a €7,500 drugs debt.

The security guard, who was struck in the face with a knuckleduster, suffered serious injuries to his right eye and lost 50pc vision in it.

He was also bundled into the boot of his car by the men and spent 10 hours in it before he was found by a work colleague.

Judge Keenan Johnson said it was difficult to "comprehend the degree of callousness" of the robbery.

Judge Johnson said the three men were all equally culpable and he imposed nine-year sentences on each of them, suspending the last three years of the sentence for a period of three years.

Balaclavas

Martin Cunningham, of Crann Cottage, Clonegal; Patrick Cunningham, of St Mullin's; and Martin, of Myshall, all Co Carlow, had all pleaded guilty before Laois Circuit Court to robbery at the Irish Rail depot at Mountrath, Co Laois, on December 5 last year.

The court heard the men were looking for copper wire to pay off a drugs debt.

The three arrived at the depot at around 5am, wearing balaclavas.

The security guard was in his car on his phone. He was known to Martin Cunningham, as the defendant had worked at the depot.

Martin Cunningham was afraid the guard would recognise him so he stayed back while the other two robbers went to the man's car and smashed the driver's window.

The victim was hit with a knuckleduster on the side of the face and bundled into the boot of his car.

The men stole five reels of copper wire, which was later melted down and sold for €547.

Suffocate

In his victim impact statement, the 28-year-old security guard said he was trapped in the boot for 10 hours.

He suffered from asthma so struggled to breathe and feared he would suffocate in the boot.

When he was rescued his eye was in a very poor state and he was dehydrated.

He was taken to Portlaoise General Hospital and later to the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin where he underwent surgery to save the sight in his right eye.

Since the robbery, the victim said he had suffered depress- ion and anxiety, had trouble sleeping, suffered from nightmares, was jumpy if he heard the slightest noises and was more irritable with his wife and children.

Judge Johnson said the aggravating factors included the level of violence and that no effort was made to release the victim from the car boot or to contact anyone.

Mitigating factors were the defendants' early guilty pleas and their co-operation with gardai.

They had also apologised to the victim and were ashamed and remorseful for their behaviour.

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