Sunday 22 October 2017

Pensioner chased burglar with hatchet, court hears

Greg Harkin

A pensioner chased a burglar with a hatchet she kept under her bed, a court has heard.

Anne McFadden, (69), kept the weapon as a precaution and in the early hours of January 18 this year she chased habitual criminal Matthew Lafferty from her bedroom when he broke in, Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Lafferty, (21), pleaded guilty to burglary and causing criminal damage at Ms McFadden’s home.

The court heard he was in custody serving a five year sentence handed down by a court in Mayo last week for an aggravated burglary committed when he was out on bail.

Gda Brendan Roche told Judge John O’Hagan that the pensioner called him at Milford Garda Station at 3.45am and a patrol car raced to her home outside Kilmacrennan.

Miss McFadden was not sure whether the person had left or not.

“She had been watching the Vincent Browne TV show, had locked all her doors and had gone to bed where she locked the bedroom door. She is very security conscious,” said Gda Roche.

“She was awakened at 3.45am by a noise which she thought initially was caused by the weather but then she saw a light in the hallway.

“She got dressed and she contacted the Garda at this stage.

“She let out a roar and he replied ‘don’t worry it’s only Matthew’. He then kicked at the door.

“She armed herself with a hatchet and she made a swing at him and he made a run for it.”

Gda Roche said Ms McFadden didn’t know the accused but was able to give an excellent description.

Lafferty, he said, was arrested a short time later at his home with Ms McFadden’s handbag which contained medicines and personal items but no cash.

Lafferty’s mother Laura, giving evidence on his behalf, said her son had turned to crime when he was just 10.

“We lived opposite a hotel and he would go and steal the coffee, so we moved,” she said.

“He stole things from school and he was always trouble, trouble and more trouble.”

She, her husband and seven other children had been forced to move home because of her son’s drugs debts.

Cars had been burnt out outside their home, she said.

“He would take cocaine, heroine, anything he could get his hands on, even the other children’s vitamin tablets,” she told Judge John O’Hagan.

Defence barrister Fiona Crawford said Lafferty had 47 previous convictions.

He had been diagnosed with ADHD and schizophrenia and his family had done everything to keep him out of trouble but that all those efforts had failed.

Judge O’Hagan praised the efforts of the Lafferty family to help their son.

“It must have been heartbreaking to see their young kid going off the rails,” he said.

However he said he had a duty to protect the public from Lafferty.

Praising Ms McFadden, the judge said: “She has a bit of bottle and she armed herself with a hatchet and she was going to use it to protect herself.

“She might have had a more frightening effect on Lafferty, but it was a terrible terrible experience.

“Our older community is entitled to be protected. People should not have to live under the threat of burglars breaking into their homes.

“The courts and the law are here to protect the Miss McFaddens and I must transmit to other citizens that the courts are prepared to look after them.”

He sentenced Lafferty to three years in prison on each charge, the sentences to run concurrently and asked prison authorities to provide psychiatric services to Lafferty.

Irish Independent

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