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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Irish academic goes on trial charged with child abduction and false imprisonment

Published 04/12/2013 | 07:39

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Thomas Pfeiffer (51) who appeared at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court on abduction and false imprisonment charges.
Thomas Pfeiffer (51) who appeared at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court on abduction and false imprisonment charges.
A German academic has gone on trial for child abduction
A German academic has gone on trial for child abduction

A GERMAN academic who worked at Waterford Institute of Technology has gone on trial charged with child abduction and false imprisonment.

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Thomas Pfeiffer (51), picked up an 11-year-old German boy at Dublin Airport on January 31, 2009 and drove him to his home in Co Waterford, a court was told.

Mary Rose Geraty SC, told the jury that the boy arrived in Ireland as part of a programme to improve his English. It is the prosecution’s case that the boy understood he would be taken directly to his host family, she said.

However, the boy, who had arrived from Berlin, spent two days with Pfeiffer at his Co Waterford home.

Pfeiffer, with an address at Meadowview, Coolfin in Portlaw, Co Waterford, is on trial at the Circuit Criminal Court in Waterford.

The court heard that when the academic met with the boy at the airport, he put him into a harness and placed the boy in a booster seat in the back of his car.

The man then drove the boy to his home, 194 kilometres away, the court was told.

It is alleged that he measured and weighed the boy before he put him to bed in a bedroom with two bunk beds present. The boy said that his hands and legs were restrained in allotted sections in a sleeping bag.

He said he was unable to get out of either constraint.

The boy, in evidence yesterday, said that the harness was “fixed to my legs, as well as my shoulders and my chest.”

For two nights, he was allegedly restrained in a sleeping bag at the man’s house.

“I could not move my body; I could only move my head.” He said that both the harness and sleeping bag “inhibited my movement”.

 He added: “It made me feel uncomfortable... He wasn’t particularly kind; I felt scared in his presence because I didn’t know what he was going to do.”

He said he was always thinking about “what could have happened”.

He said: “I was frightened – I did not know what was ahead of me. I was afraid.”

The boy was said that a sleeping bag shown to him by the defence was not the one he was placed in, as it did not have the relevant interior sections for limbs.

Two days after being picked up, the boy said he was taken to his host family and spent some months living here, attending a school and bettering his English.

The accused, who is involved in mountain rescue, faces three charges of false imprisonment and one of child abduction.

The trial continues.

Ciaran Murphy

Irish Independent

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