Tuesday 21 February 2017

'Berserk' teen stole iguana, tarantula and scorpion from wildlife exhibition before attacking gardaí

Tom Tuite

Published 28/11/2016 | 17:44

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A youth has admitted going berserk and attacking gardai after he stole live exotic animals which had been part of a wildlife exhibition at a library in Dublin.

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The 17-year-old boy pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court to stealing a Rhino iguana valued €1,600, a Mexican Red Knee tarantula spider which cost €85 and an Asian forest scorpion that was worth €65 from the Lucan library on July 21 last.

He also admitted attacking a male Garda sergeant as well as a male garda and a female garda on the same date at the two locations nearby on the same date.

Judge John O'Connor adjourned sentencing the youth for a probation report to be prepared and to see if the victims wanted to give impact statements.

“I don't know what he was on or what he was doing but it wasn't right,” Judge O'Connor said, adding that it was a very serious incident.

Garda Sergeant Paul Moran said a wildlife lecture had taken place at the library and some exotic animals were on display.

Afterwards the lecturer and owner of the animals David Griffin was bringing them back to his car via a lift in the building.

He put the boxes in a lift but the door close and it descended to the car-park without him.

“When the door opened at the bottom, the accused removed the box containing the creatures and left,” said Gda Sgt Moran. They were not dangerous or poisonous, he said.

Gardai watched the CCTV footage and the teenager, who was already known to them, was contacted.

While other gardai and the owners of the exotic creatures were out searching, the youth returned the iguana and the scorpion but the tarantula was still missing.

Later that day, gardai found the youth at a park in Lucan carrying a plastic box.

There was a short foot chase and he was caught at which point the spider was recovered.

Gda Sgt Moran said the youth “just went berserk” and began kicking and lashing out at gardai.

He kicked out and head butted a garda sergeant in the chest and “his behaviour was so irrational that an incapacitant spray had to be used”, Gda Sgt Moran said.

The youth, who has no prior criminal convictions, was then placed in a garda car and spat at one officer and tried to head butt a female garda.

Gda Sgt Moran said the accused was “out of control” when he arrived at Lucan Garda station and it took an hour and a half for him to calm down.

Judge O'Connor said the incident must have been appalling for the gardai involved and the taking of the creatures was certainly not for their welfare. He described the assaults as very serious.

None of animals were harmed, the court heard.

The court was told the boy was intoxicated at the time but it was Gda Sgt Moran's belief that the youth had not just alcohol taken.

Defence counsel Damian McKeone told the court that the theft was “purely opportunistic” and the youth was “extremely drunk” at the time. He had been waiting to get in the lift when the door opened and the animals were inside on their own.

Counsel said. “It was a bizarre scene and an iguana was sitting on stop of a box in the lift”. The youth was surprised at seeing the exotic animals on their own and carried them out, the barrister said.

Mr McKeone said a psychiatric report on the youth is being prepared in connection with another case.

The teenager, who was accompanied to court by his mother, also pleaded guilty to other theft and criminal damage incidents.

The court heard that on April 25 last he stole eight cans of lager from a shop in Temple Bar in Dublin and on a date in July he ripped up a mattress in a garda station cell. He remains on bail pending sentencing.

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