A 29-YEAR-OLD German who admitted helping to move and hide a man's body has been jailed for five years at the Central Criminal Court.
Joachim Pohl pleaded guilty to assisting an offender, assisting in the removal and concealment of the body of Mr Thomas Thompson, the removal and disposal of personal affects and the cleaning up of his dwelling at Borris Road, Portlaoise, Co Laois on April 20-21, 2007 and various dates thereafter.
Mr Justice Paul Carney said the assistance tendered by the accused was at the highest level possible.
He took into account his plea of guilty, co-operation with gardai and disclosure of the body which otherwise would not have been found.
Pohl, with an address at Linton Place, Kilkenny, who entered the guilty plea on November 25 last, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years with the final two-and-a-half suspended.
Mr Thomson (59), originally from Yorkshire, England, was a self-employed plasterer who worked on building sites throughout Ireland, travelled home fortnightly and sent money back to his family.
Detective Garda Pat Scully told Mr Alex Owens SC prosecuting that Pohl had his own building company and his employee owed money to Mr Thompson.
Mr Thompson was telling other people that they should not hire this man and Pohl was having difficulty in getting work as a result, the court heard.
Shortly after April 20, 2007 Mr Thompson’s landlord noticed possessions had gone missing from the property.
A garda investigation was begun, bleach was found in the Mr Thompson’s home and part of the hall door was broken.
On June 5, 2007 Pohl was interviewed at Carlow Garda Station and he said he had not seen Mr Thompson in over a year.
In December 2007, Pohl and the other man were arrested on suspicion of the false imprisonment of Mr Thompson, their houses were searched and personal items of the deceased were found.
Both were charged with burglary and granted bail but in November 2008 the charge was dismissed because of a failure to provide a book of evidence.
Both men were given their passports back and three years later the Irish authorities got in contact with German authorities and Pohl returned voluntarily to Ireland.
In January 2008 Pohl had a dream he was in prison and the other man “was looking in and laughing at him”, the court heard.
He contacted gardai and told them he could indicate where the body was buried at Dysert Wood near Stradbally.
Gardai carried out a forensic examination of the scene and chili peppers were observed on the trees, which Pohl said the other man had put there so animals would not interfere with the body.
Pohl told gardai he went to Mr Thompson’s house with the other man and the two men started to shout at each other.
Mr Thompson pushed the other man against the front door, the man hit him twice on the back of the head with a bale of briquettes and he fell to the ground.
The other man told Pohl to get duct tape to bind his feet and hands and the court heard Mr Thompson was hog-tied.
Mr Thompson was placed in a wheelie bin and his van was driven around the back of the property where he was put into it and driven out towards Durrow in Co. Laois. Pohl drove in front to warn the other man if he was stopped by gardai, the court heard.
The other man told Pohl, who was upset, to go home so he did not see him bury Mr Thompson’s body.
The other man sold some of the items at a car boot sale and some were found disposed of around Callan in Co. Kilkenny. The registration plates of Mr Thompson’s van were changed and it was driven to the continent, the court heard.
The court also heard Pohl has two previous convictions for road traffic offences and has pleaded guilty to the cultivation of a small amount cannabis for his own use.
A victim impact statement was read to the court on behalf of Mr Thompson’s wife Sandra.
Ms Thompson said they planned to retire to Cyprus and buy a bar but said all of their lives were then shattered and changed forever.
She said that during the nine-month search for her husband, she hoped his body would be treated with some dignity and respect but this was not the case.
“We cannot stop the nightmares of what happened to my husband that night”, said Ms Thompson.
“As a family we have already served a five-year sentence and don’t know when it will end” she said.
“A dark cloud is hanging over our heads and we do not feel it will ever lift again”, she added.
Mr Paul Burns SC defending told the court that Pohl was in a serious road traffic accident in early 2007 and smoked cannabis to help with the pain.
He said he was in great fear of the other man and he accepts he did assist but is extremely remorseful.
Mr Burns asked to the court to take account of his client’s guilty plea, the fact he showed genuine remorse and that he returned to Ireland to face charges brought against him.