Elderly man cycles 30 miles to flee repeat robbers

Court hears bachelor set off from rural Clare home and cycled for eight hours to nursing home

Joseph Lernihan (21) of Finnanon Park, Mullagh, Co Clare,  pleaded guilty to robbing Michael  McMahon at Drumellihy West, Cree on February 21st and 25th, 2012, while Shane Donnellan (20), Clohanbeg, Cree, Kilrush and Noel Garry (20) of Tullycrine, Kilrush pleaded guilty to the robbery of Mr McMahon on February 25th, 2012.  Photograph: Reuters

Joseph Lernihan (21) of Finnanon Park, Mullagh, Co Clare, pleaded guilty to robbing Michael McMahon at Drumellihy West, Cree on February 21st and 25th, 2012, while Shane Donnellan (20), Clohanbeg, Cree, Kilrush and Noel Garry (20) of Tullycrine, Kilrush pleaded guilty to the robbery of Mr McMahon on February 25th, 2012. Photograph: Reuters

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 18:50

A 68-year old man abandoned his home, cycling 30 miles through the night to check himself into a nursing home after being terrorised by robbers at his remote home in west Clare.

Ennis Circuit Court heard today that bachelor Michael McMahon set off from his home in Cree at 1am with his belongings in a few bags on his pushbike and cycled for eight hours to St Joseph’s nursing home in Ennis, where he checked himself in at 9am that morning.

Mr McMahon remains in nursing home care today after fleeing his home following two nights of being put in “absolute fear” by robbers almost two years ago, with the criminals making threats on the second occasion that they were going to return to rob him for a third time - this time for €50,000.

Outlining the facts in court, Det Garda Donal Corkery said that on the second occasion, the robbers put the rung of a gate through a broken window at Mr McMahon’s home, pretending that it was a gun and threatening to shoot him.

Det Corkery said Mr McMahon was living alone in the rural, remote location two miles from the village of Cooraclare without any electricity or running water.

However, Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon had cash in his home from an inheritance he received from America.

In court today, three west Clare men pleaded guilty to robbing Mr McMahon.

In the case, Joseph Lernihan (21) of Finnanon Park, Mullagh pleaded guilty to robbing Mr McMahon at Drumellihy West, Cree on February 21st and 25th, 2012, while Shane Donnellan (20), Clohanbeg, Cree, Kilrush and Noel Garry (20) of Tullycrine, Kilrush pleaded guilty to the robbery of Mr McMahon on February 25th, 2012.

Det Corkery said that over the two nights around €7,000 in cash was taken from Mr McMahon.

In evidence, Det Corkery said that at 10pm on February 21st, Mr McMahon heard banging outside his home and could see three torches in the darkness outside.

Det Corkery said that on this occasion, three windows of Mr McMahon’s home were broken and Mr McMahon could see three people outside all were wearing hoodies.

Det Corkery said the three demanded €500 from outside the house and Mr McMahon was frightened and told them through a broken window that he would give them that sum.

State counsel, Stephen Coughlan BL, said the robbers were not happy with €500 “and they threatened to come into the house and search the house if he didn’t give them more”.

Mr Coughlan said Mr McMahon, “in a state of absolute fear”, handed the robbers three jars containing roughly €4,000 in cash.

Det Corkery said: “One jar contained €500. They demanded more, he handed out a second jar containing roughly €1,000. They kept demanding more money and he handed out a third jar with the three jars roughly containing a little more than €4,000. That was all the money he had in the house.”

Det Corkery said that one of the robbers told Mr McMahon: “No gardaí. We won’t be back. We won’t get mad.”

Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon on the night “felt weak and was fearful from the whole ordeal, but at the time did not make any complaint to the gardaí”.

Det Corkery said that the following day, Mr McMahon went to the AIB in Kilrush to withdraw €3,000 from his bank account. He placed blocks and turf to close up the broken windows.

He said: “Mr McMahon attended the bank two or three times a year and would withdraw roughly €3,000 and he would live on that for three to five months. As he had no money, that is why he had to go in.”

Det Corkery said that the source of Mr McMahon’s income was an inheritance from America.

Four nights later, on February 25th, robbers returned and Det Corkery said Mr McMahon saw blocks being removed from one of his broken windows and that a pipe was being pointed into the house.

Det Corkery said that it was a rung of a gate two to three foot in length and made to resemble a gun.

Mr Coughlan said: “He was told that it was a gun and if he tried to leave the room he would be shot.”

Mr Coughlan said Mr McMahon heard one of the robbers say ‘You f***in’ bastard. You must have a gun and I’ll shoot you if you go into the other room.”

The counsel said: “Mr McMahon opened the door and saw four people outside. One of these brought Mr McMahon out to the rear of the house while the others searched the house.

Det Corkery said the robbers requested Mr McMahon’s assistance to locate money in the house as they had only found a small amount in a jar.

He said that Mr McMahon retrieved the remainder of the money - around €3,000 - and gave it to the robbers. Mr Coughlan said: “They demanded and got Mr McMahon’s bank books and they told Mr McMahon to go to the bank the following Monday and withdraw €50,000 and they would be back for that.”

Det Corkery said the robbers made the demand “after seeing a substantial sum of money on the bank books”.

Mr Coughlan said the robbers “told him that if he contacted the gardaí, they would come back and burn his house down”.

Det Corkery said: “Mr McMahon told the persons there that he wouldn’t be able to remain at his home because of their action and later at 1am that night, he gathered up his belongings and cycled from his address to St Joseph’s nursing home.”

Det Corkery said that on arriving at St Joseph’s, Mr McMahon made a complaint to gardaí. Det Corkery said Mr McMahon remained at St Joseph’s for two days before being transferred to St Theresa’s nursing home in Kilrush, where he remains today.

Det Corkery said gardaí mounted a surveillance operation outside Mr McMahon’s home the following Monday lying in wait for the robbers, but they never showed.

Det Corkery said gardaí have updated Mr McMahon on numerous occasions relating to the investigation. He said: “Mr McMahon is not a frail man. He is in good health, but he is fearful and has informed us that he will never return home again.”

Det Corkery said Mr McMahon had declined the option of providing a victim impact statement to court.

The detective said that some of the proceeds from the robbery were spent by Lernihan paying €1,000 for a Passat car in Donegal. Gardaí have since seized the car.

Det Corkery said the father of one has no previous convictions, while Donnellan works with his father and also has no previous convictions.

Det Corkery said Garry has five previous convictions, including two for burglary, one for theft and one for criminal damage.

The detective said the robbers were tipped off by a juvenile who was convinced Mr McMahon was wealthy and lived by himself.

Det Corkery that Donnellan and Lernihan are at the lower end of involvement in the crime, with Garry higher up.

The detective said the prime mover in the crime is not before the courts as there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him, because he did not make admissions to gardaí.

In an interview with gardaí, Lernihan explained how he came to be involved. He said: “I was stuck for money. My girlfriend was pregnant. I had no job and no money.”

Counsel for Lernihan, Lorcan Connolly BL said Lernihan said that after Mr McMahon gave out the three jars of cash “I gave him back €150 and said sorry”.

Lernihan received €410 and €1,400 from the two robberies. He told gardaí: “I shouldn’t have gone near it.”

In a statement to gardaí, Donnellan said: “I’m so sorry about what I put that man through and I will pay back the money.”

Probation reports are not yet ready in the case and Judge Carroll Moran adjourned sentencing to Ennis Circuit Court to March 3rd, remanding Garry in continuing custody and remanding Lernihan and Donnellan on continuing bail.

Garry had been on bail for this offence, but did not show in court on the last occasion and was arrested on foot of a bench warrant.