Men jailed for armed robbery of supermarket
Published 23/04/2015 | 18:59
Two men who were involved in “an ambitious” armed raid of a Dublin supermarket while 30 customers were present have been jailed for five years.
Michael Coleman (34), Michael Sweeney (32) and his brother Waymon Sweeney (33) were armed with an axe, a large knife and a gun and wearing balaclavas when they raided Lidl on the Grange Road in Rathfarnham near closing time.
They threatened a member of staff with a gun and the manager of the store with an axe before robbing almost €25,000.
Coleman of Captain’s Road, Crumlin and Michael Sweeney of Neagh Road, Terenure each pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery on May 16, 2013.
Waymon Sweeney of Glenview Park, Tallaght, who had been in court earlier in the day (Thursday) didn’t return after lunch recess and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Michael Sweeney has 29 previous convictions for road traffic offences and trespass, while Coleman has 23 for road traffic, public order and firearm offences.
Sergeant Padraig Mullarkey told Martina Baxter BL, prosecuting, that customers were forced to lie on the floor and staff members were instructed to put their hands up and kneel against the wall while the men demanded cash from the safe.
One cashier had a pistol held at the back of his neck while he was instructed to open the safe. The manager then appeared from the warehouse and was threatened with an axe until he loaded the robber’s bag with all the notes from the safe.
The raiders ultimately made off with €24,556. They were chased down by gardaí who arrived on the scene before they had left the carpark after the security guard dialled 999.
The robbers drove their getaway car directly at a garda who was attempting to block them and gestured at him with a gun. He jumped out of the path of the vehicle but followed it on foot to ascertain the direction they had gone in.
The men drove into a nearby housing estate where they abandoned and burnt out the original car. They hopped a wall and escaped again in a waiting vehicle.
This second car was pursued by gardaí and was ultimately crashed. A number of items including the takings from the robbery were still in the vehicle.
Coleman was arrested at the scene while Michael Sweeney walked into a nearby McDonald’s Restaurant. He claimed he had been involved in a car accident and got a customer there to call his family to pick him up.
He was later arrested after his DNA was found in items left behind in the second car.
Judge Martin Nolan said the men seemed to threaten everyone in the supermarket in a violent way and a sizable sum of cash was taken.
He described it as “a well planned, ambitious robbery”, noting the gang had a getaway car but said fortunately the gardaí arrived in “the nick of time”.
Judge Nolan noted that both men had addiction problems which they have since tried to deal with but he said the “the overriding view of the court is that it was a serious, well-planned robbery”.
Sgt Mullarkey agreed with Caroline Biggs SC, defending Coleman, that her client told gardaí his mind was “messed up a drugs” at the time and accepted that his mother had passed away weeks before the robbery.
He agreed with James Dwyer BL, defending Sweeney, that he has no conviction for a violent crime and that he was “under a cloud” of a massive drug debt and threats to his life at the time.
Ms Biggs said her client was a drug addict at the time and was suffering from depression following his mother’s death.
Mr Dwyer said Sweeney turned to drugs following the death of a friend and the break-up of a long term relationship.
He said his client was “extended a great line of credit” from drug suppliers, built up an enormous debt and came under threat to pay it off. Mr Dwyer said the top of Sweeney’s ear is missing as the result of one assault.
Victim impact reports had been prepared for the case but were not read out in court..