Man jailed for eight years for Adrian Ronan kidnapping

Stephen Freeman involved in robbery of Kilkenny hurler and his family

A man involved in the tiger kidnapping of Kilkenny All Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family has been sentenced to ten years in prison with the final two suspended.  Photograph: Paddy Whelan/The Irish Times

A man involved in the tiger kidnapping of Kilkenny All Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family has been sentenced to ten years in prison with the final two suspended. Photograph: Paddy Whelan/The Irish Times

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 12:53

A man who was involved in the kidnapping of Kilkenny All Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family has been sentenced to 10 years in prison with the final two suspended.

The court heard Stephen Freeman’s role was to pick up and transport the money after the raid, but he couldn’t drive so a gambling associate taxi driver was hired. The case against Freeman was largely based on him admitting his involvement to this taxi driver.

Freeman (27) of Ballcurris gardens, Ballymun, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on a trial date to attempted robbery of cash with others from Bank of Ireland, Parliament Street, Kilkenny on Tuesday November 3rd, 2009. He also admitted using force on Adrian and Mary Ronan and members of their family in order to frighten them.

He has seven previous convictions.

Today, Judge Desmond Hogan commented that though he was dealing with an attempted robbery charge, the offence took place as part of a kidnapping.

The judge said: “There are a few categories of offences that in my view nearly are universally regarded with public opprobrium and certainly in my view tiger kidnapping comes within that category.”

The judge said Freeman was acting in common design. He commented Freeman was “enthusiastic” to get involved as he got somebody else to do the driving when he couldn’t fulfil this role.

Judge Hogan described the written statements from the Ronan family as “harrowing” reading. “I must say that listening to Mr Ronan and the effects it has had on him and his family has left me with nothing but extreme disgust,” the judge said.

He noted the family is still suffering from the effects of the “horrific, abominable crime”. He said he hoped the outcome of this case would bring the family some closure.

The judge took into account Freeman’s age at the time of the offence and his guilty plea. He suspended the final two years of the 10 year sentence for three years. He also ordered that Freeman undergo any gambling addiction course deemed appropriate by the Probation Services.

Det Insp Michael Hennebry said Freeman was the only person to be prosecuted for the raid though many were arrested.

He revealed the Ronans woke up at 5am to find three masked men in their bedroom.

The raiders cable tied Mr Ronan’s hands and told him: “You’re going to do a job for us. We’re taking your wife and you’re going to get us €3 million.”

They asked Mr Ronan: “Do you want your kids to be without a mother for Christmas?”

They drove Mrs Ronan to a disused weather station outside Kilkenny, where she was tied to a swivel chair at gun point for eight hours.

The raiders gave Mr Ronan, who worked in the Bank of Ireland finance sector, a mobile phone and showed him a phone scanner to warn him off contacting gardai.

Mr Ronan received a number of phone calls over the morning about getting money. The final phone call never came and a short time later gardaí rang him to say his wife had been located unharmed.

Gardaí arrested Freeman and interviewed him 29 times before he made admissions. He said he was informed he would be dropping something from one place to another.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending, said Freeman had run up large gambling debts and the raiders had promised to have them written off if he helped them.

Freeman wept as he sat in court listening to Mr Ronan describe the hostage situation as “hell on earth”.

The victim said he wondered how he would he would cope if his wife was murdered and detailed how the armed men told him his wife “would get a bullet” and asked him if he wanted to lose his wife for Christmas.

He said he and his family continued to suffer the effects for long afterwards. He said the family slept in the single room for 12 months after the raid and their home became “a crime scene”.

Mr Ronan said the family still feel unsafe in their home and are reminded of the raid every time they lock up and check the alarm at night.

“Every strange car that passes our house becomes a suspect,” Mr Ronan continued. “Little things like hearing a Dublin accent causes anxiety.

“The raiders stole our happiness, our dreams and our future,” he said. “All of this just to rob the Bank of Ireland in Kilkenny.”

Mr Ronan said he has suffered from sleep and heart issues and his children have suffered in school. He paid tribute to his “remarkable wife” who he said would get his vote for the mother of the year award.

The victim impact report of his wife, Mary Ronan, was read into the record by counsel. She detailed how she was held hostage for eight hours while not knowing of what “torture” her children might be going through.

After some hours in the weather station, she said her kidnapper took out a gun and fired above her head. “I thought the next shot would be for me,” she wrote

Mrs Ronan wrote that she later thought she could have said two million Hail Marys in that time. “Those masked and armed raiders stole our children’s safety and freedom within our own home and outside,” she added.