Homeowner awoke to find masked raider standing over him

Victim feared for life during break-in as burglar wielded yard brush in his hands

A man feared that he might die when he woke to find a masked intruder standing over him armed with a yard brush but says it was just as well it was him rather than a more vulnerable person who was targeted.

Richard Shorten (57) was speaking after Thomas O'Neill (45) was sentenced to eight years with the final two years suspended in connection with the incident at his home in Derrigra, Enniskeane, Co Cork, on December 22nd last.

Mr Shorten, who had suffered a dislocated shoulder in a fall at work the previous day, dozed off on the couch and was awoken by the sound of O'Neill, also known as Thomas Savage jnr, moving around the house he shared with his wife and four children.

“To my horror, I woke to see a masked stranger standing over me. I saw he had my heavy duty yard brush in his hands. I shouted at him,” he said.


“Without warning or reason, he lifted the yard brush in both hands above his head and struck me twice with it with force. He was aiming for my head.

“Thankfully I managed to raise my good arm over myself to protect my head from the blows, he struck me twice (but) the ceiling and my good arm took most of the force. I will never forget the mad glare in his eyes as he struck me. I really thought he was going to kill me.”

Det Garda Kevin Heffernan told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Mr Shorten managed to raise the alarm and two of his children – Gerry (25) and Caroline (20) – came downstairs and called gardaí before pursuing O'Neill down a nearby laneway, where he was later arrested.

Quiet life

O’Neill made no admissions when he was questioned about the break-in but pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary. The plea was a relief to Mr Shorten and his family as they were spared giving evidence in a trial, Det Garda Heffernan said.

In his victim impact statement, read by Det Garda Heffernan, Mr Shorten said he would never forget the night and, although O’Neill took nothing, the incident had ruined Christmas for the family.

“We live a quiet and normal life. This man crashed into our lives that night and he hasn’t left our lives since. My family are not yet over this . . . I don’t know why this man targeted us and our home. In a way maybe it’s better he picked us rather than someone more vulnerable.”

The court heard that O'Neill, a native of Swords, Co Dublin, but with an address at the time at Haven Cottage, Farnivane, Bandon, had written a letter of apology and also offered more than €2,000 in compensation.

Det Garda Heffernan said O’Neill was on bail for a similar offence at the time and had 20 previous convictions.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin accepted O’Neill was a heroin addict who was currently on a methadone programme. The fact he had broken a lock and armed himself with a yard brush suggested determination and deliberation, the judge said.

The fact the incident happened at night and had put a man in fear was an aggravating factor as was his previous record and the fact that he committed the offence while on bail, he continued.

The judge said O’Neill had to be given credit for his guilty plea, which spared Mr Shorten and his family coming to court to give evidence, and he believed the appropriate sentence was eight years with the final two years suspended.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times