Three refused bail, charged with abducting young brothers found in Tipperary
Gardaí allege three acted to abduct siblings, traffic them out of State to France
The three defendants, aged 51, 41, and 34, all with addresses in Northern Ireland, were each charged before Nenagh District Court, with two counts of abducting a child. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Two women and a man were refused bail at a court on Thursday night after being charged with abducting two brothers, aged nine and four years.
The three defendants, aged 51, 41, and 34, all with addresses in Northern Ireland, were each charged before Nenagh District Court, with two counts of abducting a child.
The court heard the maximum sentence on conviction on indictment is seven years in prison.
The boys were the subject of a nationwide media alert last week issued by the gardaí in conjunction with the PSNI, after the boys were last seen in Belfast on May 14th.
During bail hearings for the three accused, gardaí alleged that all three acted together to abduct and traffic the two male siblings out of Ireland on a ferry to France last Tuesday.
The three defendants were arrested by gardaí at a dilapidated house at Stradaroher Court, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on May 25th, the court heard.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Lyons, Thurles, objected to bail on grounds of the seriousness of the charges, nature and strength of the alleged evidence, and his personal belief that all three defendants would flee the State and not stand trial.
Detective Lyons said he also feared that if the three defendants were granted bail he feared they would make further attempts to abduct the two boys and traffic them to Europe in order to avoid the detection of Northern Ireland social services and the police.
The court heard uncontested evidence that when gardaí entered a rundown property in Thurles on May 25th, they found a 51-year-old woman and a teenage girl, in the company of the two boys who had been the subject of the media appeal.
Gardaí told the court that after they arrested the 51-year-old defendant she claimed during Garda interviews that she had brought the boys to the house on holiday, however gardaí disputed this describing the house as a “vacant” property.
Gardaí alleged bags for the four of them were found in the house packed and ready to leave and that the passports for the two missing boys were found in the 51-year-old suspect’s bag.
An examination of a smartphone found in the house showed the device was used to visit the Stena Line ferry website, and that a number of online news articles about the missing boys had been viewed, gardaí alleged.
When gardaí entered the property they found all the blinds drawn.
Det Sgt Lyons told the court: “The back yard was in such a state that it would attract vermin, it was certainly not a holiday.
“The children were not outside, and the house was sparse and dirty.
“There was no entertainment for the children, nothing by way of a television or toys for the children,” he added.
The court heard the two missing boys along with the teenage girl were taken into the care of Tusla, child and family welfare services.
During interviews with gardaí following her arrest, the 51-year-old woman indicated she had no knowledge of the media appeal about the boys.
Her two co-accused were arrested at the house in Thurles after they arrived together in a Skoda car and knocked on the front door, having changed from a Hyundai car earlier, gardaí alleged.
Gardaí alleged that after they arrested the 41-year-old male suspect he told them in interviews that he was aware of the police searching for the two boys and that he had travelled from Belfast to Thurles to bring the older woman, girl and two missing boys back to Belfast.
Gardaí said that after they arrested the 34-year-old woman, she told them she had no knowledge the two missing boys were in the house and that she had only gone there to collect the older woman and bring her back to Belfast.
Gardaí told the court they found evidence of an online booking on Stena Line’s website for a ferry trip from Rosslare Port to Cherbourg, France on the 9pm sailing that night that was booked in the names of the male accused, the 34-year-old female accused, the teenage girl as well as two other children of similar ages to the missing boys.
Det Lyons said it was his belief that the three accused plotted together to traffic the two boys to Europe under false passports.
The court heard the male defendant claimed he booked the ferry planning to take himself and his partner and their two children to EuroDisney in France, on May 25th.
Gardaí said they when they found the male accused and the younger of the two female suspects in possession of £6,000 s(€6,987) and £25,000 worth of gold jewellery.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath said she was satisfied to refuse bail for all three defendants, which she said they are entitled to appeal before the High Court.
She remanded the three defendants in custody to Limerick Prison to appear before Tipperary District Court, on June 2nd via video link.