‘They told me they’d shoot me. They said I’d never see the children again’
Family recalls ‘four minutes of mayhem’ as gang smashed way into their house
Burglary victims Gerry and Ann Garvey with their children, Gillian, Graham and Gordon. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22
Gerry Garvey, who was threatened at gunpoint along with his family, by a gang of burglars in his rural home six years ago, remembers it as if it was yesterday.
Recalling the traumatic break-in, he said: “There was a very loud bang. Then another bang, and then glass smashing. I saw the butt of a sawn-off shotgun coming in through the curtains and the gang with their balaclavas and their weapons.”
“I had a sense of complete helplessness, because there wasn’t a damn thing I could do for them,” he added. Normal life for his family, he said, has utterly changed for them all.
“Counselling was necessary”, he went on, “The sound of smashing glass” brings back “flashing memories” of when gang smashed their way into the family’s home. You never forget it.”
The gang responsible were given combined sentences of nearly 50 years who burgled his home in April 2012, and a neighbouring farmhouse occupied by three elderly siblings, a week later.
Garvey’s frail neighbours Willie, Nora, and Christina Creed, were subjected to vicious violence. They were tied up, beaten, and stabbed by members of the same gang.
Warmly welcoming the DPP’s call for tougher burglary sentencing, the father of four said he believed, if anything, that the DPP has not gone far enough to combat aggravated burglary.
There should be mandatory sentencing for aggravated burglary. It should be at least 10 years, mandatory. There is not enough of a deterrent”
“There should be mandatory sentencing for aggravated burglary. It should be at least 10 years, mandatory. There is not enough of a deterrent,” Garvey (57), told The Irish Times.
“Aggravated burglary against anyone, particularly elderly people, is a heinous crime. Leaving sentencing to the discretion of judges probably isn’t the best. Some of our judges badly need a few guidelines.”
Garvey said the burglary at his home at Sunville House, Pallasgreen, was “four minutes of mayhem”, but added that the psychological effects on him and his family would last “forever”.
The Garvey’s were taken completely by surprise. The gang, armed with a gun and sledgehammers burst through patio doors at the rear of their secluded home.
Gerry Garvey was in the kitchen; his wife Ann was upstairs taking a bath; and the couple’s two sets of twins Grace and Gordon (16) and Gillian and Graham (14), were watching television and playing computer games.
The gang chased the terrified children upstairs. Gordon Garvey was punched in the face and his sister Grace was warned she’d be shot.
The gang then burst into the upstairs bathroom, ordering Ann Garvey to get them the keys to the house safe containing €4,000.
Gerry Garvey was tied up and had the barrel of a shotgun pressed against his forehead.
“They tied me up with handcuffs and put me face down on the floor. They told me they’d shoot me. They said I’d never see the children again,” he added.
Grace’s hands were bound with cable ties and the terrified teenager was made kneel in front of her father while the gang shouted “wild threats”.
“It was difficult for her to hear all this stuff,” Garvey said.
Despite the unfolding terror he knew he had to remain “calm”. “When you’ve a sawn-off shotgun pointed at you you don’t take any chances.”
However, the impact of the burglary has left an indelible mark on the family. Despite being able to talk about the ordeal, Gerry Garvey acknowledged the psychological trauma “you can’t see” is the hardest to deal with.