By Declan Brennan
A man has received a partially suspended prison sentence of 12 years for the false imprisonment of a mother and her young daughter in their home in Howth in December 2013.
Declan Murphy (53) and at least two other men forced their way into the family home on the morning of December 13, 2013. They used cable ties to tie up the woman and her eight year old daughter and then ransacked the house.
The men took €27,000 in cash and over €30,000 worth of jewellery before making off in the woman’s 4×4 vehicle. The vehicle was found abandoned with a flat tyre a short time later in Howth village.
Gardai examined CCTV to link the burglary to a white van registered to a man named Eamon Brennan, now dead. Brennan (35) of Woodfarm Cottages, Palmerstown and Murphy were charged in October 2016.
In January 2014 gardaí stopped the white van. They found cigarette butt in the van which they were able to link to Murphy using DNA analysis.
Gardaí also analysed mobile phone usage in the Howth area at relevant times to connect Brennan and Murphy. Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that four pre-paid unregistered phones were used only for the execution of the burglary.
The burglary took place after the woman’s husband had left for work. The woman heard someone knocking on the front door and saw a calling card had been left advertising for garden maintenance.
She opened the door and the men, who had begun walking away from the door, turned and forced their way past her and pulled her inside.
One man was armed with a crowbar. The woman’s daughter, who was at home sick from school, came downstairs and the men tied both women up in a small bathroom.
Murphy of North Frederick Street, Dublin initially pleaded not guilty to aggravated burglary, false imprisonment of two people and theft of the 4×4.
During a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last February the defence raised issues over the use of mobile phone evidence, with some legal reference to Graham Dwyer civil appeal.
After this legal argument ended Murphy changed his pleas, pleading guilty to aggravated burglary and two false imprisonment charges.
In a victim impact statement the woman told the court that the burglary had a profound effect on her life. She said she is now afraid to be alone in her home.
She said that she thought about how this crime was planned and her family were watched.
She said Christmas can never be the same since the burglary and it upsets her that her daughter had to watch her mother being dragged around the house and have her watch pulled from her arm.
Judge Pauline Codd said the significant aggravating factors were the premeditation and pre-planning.
She said this was an intolerable intrusion of the family home which took place after the victim’s husband had left. She said it was a gross violation of their sense of security and was something the family will never forget.
The judge said she was particularly taking into consideration the ongoing effect on the victims and the woman’s sense of not being able to protect her daughter.
She suspended the final year of a 12 year prison term.
Murphy’s 157 previous convictions include 38 for burglary. In December 2013 he was serving a suspended sentence for a 2012 handbag snatch at Howth DART station during which he threatened people with a knife.
Judge Codd re-activated this sentence but suspended it again for three years on condition he engage with the Probation Services and be of good behaviour. The suspended term is consecutive to the sentence for the kidnapping and burglary.
Earlier in the hearing Seamus Clarke SC, defending, asked the court to take into consideration his client’s health issues, which include cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatitis and considerable drug addiction problems.