Man jailed for kidnap robbery

John and Nicola Hall arriving to court today. Photograph: Collins Courts

John and Nicola Hall arriving to court today. Photograph: Collins Courts

Fri, Mar 1, 2013, 00:00

A father-of-five has been sentenced to 10 years for a kidnapping robbery in which a bank manager’s husband and two small children were held captive in a van.

Michael McGuirk (45) of Captain’s Road, Crumlin, pleaded guilty to the robbery at Bank of Ireland in Inchicore on October 23rd, 2009 in which nearly €250,000 was taken.

The victim was threatened that her children would be mutilated and her husband shot. She told the court: “If there was any idea of hell, this would be it”.

Judge Desmond Hogan commented: “There’s no doubt about it, this is a very, very nasty crime, bordering on the horrific.”

He noted that three armed and masked men used children as hostages to obtain money from their mother. He said that the men acted “reprehensibly” by keeping the children in a van and not letting them out to go to the toilet.

The judge noted McGuirk was not one of the men who entered the house but that he was the one who called the woman to tell her where to find her family after the money was delivered.

“What an ordeal these people went through,” Judge Hogan commented. “It was a very well planned operation that used the couple’s vulnerability, their children, against them.”

He noted McGuirk’s guilty plea and the minor nature of his previous convictions and suspended the final 12 months of the term for five years.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that on that night, the bank’s branch officer, Nicola Hall, and two children, aged six and three, were asleep in bed.

Her husband John Jones, a taxi driver and former member of the defence forces, was out working and arrived home to his house in Lucan at 1am.

He was approached by three masked men at his front door and a gun was put to his face. He was told to turn off the alarm by the men who were wearing balaclavas and surgical gloves.

Detective Garda Padraig Jennings told Una Ní Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting, that Ms Hall was woken up by a man leaning across the bed holding a hand over her mouth.

Cable ties were put on Mr Jones’s arms and legs. His mouth was taped but he was later able to remove this. The couple were separated from each other and were photographed with a gun put to their heads.

One of the children got out of bed and was asking who the men were but the couple successfully convinced them it was a game. That pretence has been maintained until this day.

Quilts and pillows were put into the van and Mr Jones was lifted into the van along with the two children.

A fourth man was in the van, which had been stolen earlier, and it was driven away at 6.18am. Mr Jones’s car was also driven away.

Meanwhile Ms Hall was given instructions on what to do that morning and told to continue on as if it was a normal day.

She said she left at 8.20am and drove to her bank branch where she tried to behave as normal until the bank vault’s time lock came off at 11.30am.

Ms Hall had to tell the assistant manager what was going on because both of them were required to open the vault. She put €210,000, Stg£6,000, $10,500 and a number of other foreign currencies worth €18,000 in a bag.

After Ms Hall left the bank her phone rang. The raiders asked her questions and she was told her family were safe. She was told to drive her jeep to a location and leave it there with the keys in the ignition.

Mr Jones and his two children were held in the back of the van for five hours. As soon as the driver left, his son got through a small gap in the front of the van and alerted a passer-by.

The van was left at a garage in Rathdangan, Co Kildare and Mr Jones’s own car was also found nearby.

A 999 call was received from an anonymous caller at 1pm to say a man and two children were tied up in a van.

This call was traced back to a phone box in Templeogue in Dublin which was forensically examined and fingerprints taken. The court heard the phone box had not been used in a number of hours.

McGuirk was stopped three miles from the phone box in a routine Garda stop by Garda Jean O’ Brien.

When he was later arrested it was found fingerprints matched those on the phone box and a partial DNA profile was found on the handbrake of the van.

McGuirk was interviewed 22 times over a five-day period and provided no explanation for his fingerprints being found on the phone box. Nobody else has been charged in relation to the incident.

The court heard McGuirk has 31 previous convictions including violent disorder, firearms and road traffic offences.

In a victim impact statement read to the court on behalf of Ms Hall, she said she was threatened that her children would be mutilated and her husband shot.

“If there was any idea of hell, this would be it,” she said.

She said she eventually returned to work after six months but no longer works at that branch of the bank.

Mr Jones said he and his children were put into the back of a van in freezing, dirty conditions.

He said his children had to go to the toilet in the back of a van as they were not given the dignity to go outside.

Under cross-examination Det Gda Jennings agreed with Sean Gillane SC, defending, that his client was “the only person to answer for this”.

Mr Gillane said his phone call was his only act of decency and asked the court to take account of his guilty plea. He said his client was a roofer with five children, that his wife was not well and asked the court to have regard to his age.

Mr Gillane added McGuirk is ashamed of his involvement and is very sorry for it.