Getaway driver jailed for 18 months following armed Clonee raid

by Gazette Reporter

By Sonya McLean & Brion Hoban

The getaway driver in an attempted armed robbery of a Dublin pub has been jailed for 18 months.

Leo Fitzpatrick (21) later told gardaí that he didn’t know his accomplice Robert Cullen (29) had a sawn-off double barrel shot gun during the early morning raid.

Fitzpatrick of Fortlawn Park, Clonsilla, Co Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempted armed robbery of Paddocks Pub, Littlepace, Clonee on June 11, 2018. He has no previous convictions.

Cullen (29) of Briarwood Green, Huntstown, Dublin was jailed for seven and half years last July by Judge Martin Nolan after he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempted robbery, possession of a double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun and discharging a firearm.

Cullen’s 44 previous convictions include convictions for robbery, attempted robbery, endangerment and obstruction.

Separately Cullen’s younger brother Cillian (24) was given a five year suspended sentence by Judge Pauline Codd last week after he pleaded guilty to impeding the apprehension of his brother at Applegreen, Friarswood, Co Meath, on June 11, 2018. He has no previous convictions.

Sentencing Fitzpatrick yesterday, Judge Codd said he seems to have “taken fright” when he heard the shots, but said that she found it difficult to believe he did not know about the firearm.

Judge Codd said that because of the seriousness of the case a custodial element must be imposed. She said the principal of deterrence would not be met by a fully suspended sentence.

She sentenced Fitzpatrick to five years imprisonment, but suspended the final three-and-a-half years of the sentence on strict conditions.

Detective Sergeant Shane McCartan told Siobhán Ní Chúalacháin BL, prosecuting, that two workers had just opened the pub on the morning in question when Cullen entered behind them and produced a sawn-off shotgun.

Det Sgt McCartan said he threatened to shoot one of the workers in the leg and the other in the face if they did not give him the keys to the safe. He loaded cartridges into the gun in front of them and pointed it in one of the worker’s faces.

Cullen and the workers got into a lift to go where the safe was kept, but when it was slow to work Cullen exited, just before the lift doors closed. The two workers ran to an office where they locked themselves inside and contacted gardaí.

While hiding in the office, the workers heard Cullen fire four shots. They threw a heater out the window to “draw attention to their plight” and remained hidden in the office until gardaí arrived.

During the raid one of the staff members looked out a window and saw Robert Cullen getting into a silver VW Golf driven by Fitzpatrick.

Det Sgt McCartan said that Cillian Cullen was picked up by Fitzpatrick at a nearby roundabout after he heard Robert Cullen fire the shot gun. Fitzpatrick then returned to pick up Robert Cullen before he drove to a town in Co Meath. The VW was then set on fire and the three men got into a grey Honda Accord which was registered to Cillian Cullen.

Fitzpatrick was contacted by gardaí later that month and asked to come to the station. When he arrived Det Sgt McCartan recognised him from CCTV footage of the raid. He was interviewed four times and admitted driving the VW Golf but claimed he didn’t know Robert Cullen had a weapon.

A staff member from the Paddocks Pub said she believed that she may have been killed that day and the sound of the shots being discharged remains with her to this day. She said she struggles to sleep and suffers from short term memory loss. She is still nervous going to work.

She said the incident will remain with her forever but she appreciates the fact that she didn’t have to give evidence at trial and that the men responsible have been apprehended and will be dealt with appropriately.

Det Gda McCartan accepted a suggestion from Barry White SC, defending, that Fitzpatrick was 19 years old at the time and not the instigator of the raid.

Mr White said his client was not involved in the “disgraceful conduct” inside the public house and was “unaware” that a firearm would be involved. He said his client has been judged to be at low risk of reoffending.

Counsel said his client has €1,000 in court as an expression of his remorse.

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