AN ARMED robber whose raid on the home of a fast-food businessman was foiled by an elite garda unit has been jailed for 14 years.
Niall Fitzpatrick (47), nicknamed Houdini after a successful escape from custody in 2002, was jailed for the attempted aggravated burglary when he was armed with a pump-action shotgun while on bail for charges of handling stolen property.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Fitzpatrick has 63 previous convictions including two for armed robberies in Dublin and Cork and one for escaping from custody.
Fitzpatrick, a father of three children aged from one to seven, showed no emotion as Judge David Riordan warned that it was a very serious offence and merited a custodial sentence.
However, as he was later led from the courthouse he shouted at assembled reporters and photographers: "I am innocent."
Fitzpatrick also received a 10-year concurrent sentence for firearms offences.
He was convicted by a jury after a 20-day trial of the attempted aggravated burglary of the Cork home of fast-food entrepreneur Pat Glavin.
The trial heard that Mr Glavin used a large safe at his home to occasionally handle the takings of his cash-based businesses.
The attempted burglary was foiled by armed gardai who, having received intelligence about the raid, were lying in wait for the three-man gang.
Mr Glavin, his partner Esther, and their two children aged nine and 12 had been moved to safety earlier that evening.
Armed officers used stun grenades to stop the attempted robbery shortly before 11pm on August 11 last year. The defendant had denied all the charges arising from events in Rougrane, Glanmire, Co Cork.
Fitzpatrick, of Corrin Close, Cork, was charged with possession of a 12-gauge pump-action Remington shotgun and ammunition and attempted aggravated burglary at the home of Mr Glavin and his family.
Defence counsel Brendan Nix SC repeatedly told the trial that Fitzpatrick was not present at the scene that evening.
"I have never seen in my entire years such a lust to put a person behind bars," he said.
Regional Support Unit (RSU) members insisted they saw Fitzpatrick at the scene.