Thursday 20 November 2014

Brothers who escaped prison in Venezuela jailed over mugging

Finian Coghlan

Published 08/05/2014 | 02:30

Dermot O'Neill and (inset) his brother Leigh O'Neill
Dermot O'Neill and (inset) his brother Leigh O'Neill

TWO Irish brothers who escaped from a Venezuelan jail last year have been jailed by a judge in their home town for mugging a couple.

Leigh (26) and Dermot (22) O'Neill, from Athlone, had been in prison in the South American country after their attempt to smuggle 1.5kg of cocaine in 2012. They were sentenced to 11 years.

The pair, from Parnell Square in the midlands town, were yesterday described in an Athlone courtroom by Judge Seamus Hughes as "professional criminals" as they were convicted of assaulting a couple in the early hours of October 13, 2011.

One of the brothers claimed in court that they suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from their time in the Venezuelan jail. Their lawyer argued that there was mitigating circumstances in the Athlone assault.

The attack happened in the forecourt of an apartment block on the Dublin Road in Athlone as the man and his girlfriend waited for the electronic gates to close.

The brothers took their jackets, a rucksack, and a handbag after knocking them to the ground, but were soon identified by the victims further up the Dublin Road after they were caught by gardai in possession of the stolen items.

CONVICTION

When arrested they got aggressive and attempted to break up the squad car, and the court heard that both brothers urinated and defecated in the station cells later that night.

In their defence, solicitor Tony McLynn told the court that only Leigh had a previous conviction – for a public order offence in 2007 – and that neither had come to garda notice since.

However, when Mr McLynn referred to "mental health issues" in mitigation, Judge Hughes said the plea was "self-serving, you didn't show a scintilla of remorse, and you answered none of my questions. I am satisfied you are professional criminals".

He sentenced each brother to nine months in jail for the mugging.

The brothers escaped Venezuelan authorities last year and arrived back in Athlone in July 2013.

Irish Independent

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