A HAMMER-wielding raider smashed his way through the glass door of a jewellery store and fled through a busy town in a bid to escape from chasing gardai.
But Gareth Murphy (29) was outnumbered and sat down to give himself up, a court heard yesterday.
Murphy, originally from Mullingar and with an address at Greatwater Street, Longford, had gone to Harney's Jewellers in Longford's Main Street in the late afternoon of October 11, 2011. He was armed with a hammer, wore a hoody and had a scarf covering his face, Garda Keith Maher told Longford Circuit Court.
He wielded the hammer before the two women shop assistants and warned them: "Don't even try it or I'll kill you – shut the f**k up".
He grabbed five pairs of earrings, a bracelet and a ring to a total value of €10,500. One of the women, however, activated an alarm and ran into a barber's shop next door.
By the time Murphy tried to make his escape, barber Jim Kelleher was holding the door closed. But Murphy smashed the glass of the door with the hammer and fled. He later admitted to gardai: "I knew there were so many chasing me, that the game was up".
The court heard Murphy had built up a small drug debt which had spiralled with interest payments and he had decided on the robbery after being threatened.
He had fled to the UK because of fears for his safety, but was contacted by the police and given an Osman warning – advice that a person is under serious threat.
He was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant and served a sentence for a theft offence. He was subsequently extradited to Ireland. In evidence, Murphy said that he was being pursued by 'a well-known criminal gang' who were sending hit teams after him and to his brother's house.
"I was between a rock and a hard place. It was a last resort and I take full responsibility for it (the robbery)," he said.
The judge said the offence was committed while Murphy was "under duress of the most serious kind". He imposed a sentence of five years, but believed he was justified in suspending 18 months. Because of time served in the UK and awaiting trial, he backdated the sentence to July of last year.