Three jailed over raid terror
Armed gang tied up young children of local businessman
ONE of the country's most notorious criminals was jailed for 12 years yesterday for masterminding a terrifying raid on the home of a businessman and his family.
Three children, aged seven, five and four, were tied up with cable ties and screamed at by masked raiders who burst into the home of Julian Flynn and his wife, Emma, at Lackagh, Co Galway, on February 15, 2009.
Only the couple's seven-month-old baby was spared the ordeal of being tied up, after the armed gang entered the home at about 8.45pm. Yesterday, Detective Inspector Gerard Roche told Galway Circuit Criminal Court that when the five-member gang came through the back door, Mrs Flynn was talking to her mother, Colette Whelan, over the phone.
The court was told that the gang wore balaclavas and carried a sawn-off shotgun and a hatchet. They took the children upstairs, while Julian and Emma Flynn were tied up downstairs. Mr Flynn runs a number of family businesses, including a builders' providers, hardware store and supermarket close to his home.
The raiders demanded money from the family and searched the house before finding €3,000. Gang leader Thomas Freeman (54), of Deansrath Grove, Clondalkin, Dublin, found Mr Flynn's semi-automatic shotgun and loaded it with three cartridges in Mr Flynn's presence.
Meanwhile, Mrs Whelan, who heard her daughter scream "please don't hurt me" over the phone, alerted gardai.
When Garda Alan Keane and Garda Bernice Mulderrig entered the house, which was in darkness, a raider confronted them and a second intruder attacked Gda Keane with a hatchet. Gda Keane was also confronted by Freeman, who was carrying Mr Flynn's loaded shotgun. Gda Keane disarmed him by striking him with his baton as Gda Mulderrig was confronted by a raider pointing a gun at her.
Mr Flynn, who had freed himself, helped to subdue Gda Keane's armed attacker.
Garda reinforcements arrived and two other raiders -- Michael McCormack (43) of Ballbrook Close, Tallaght, Dublin; and Greg Kelly (23), of Sandyhill Gardens, Ballymun, Dublin -- were arrested. However, two other raiders had fled the scene.
Det Insp Roche described Freeman as one of the country's most active and high-profile criminals. He had a string of convictions, including a 10-year sentence in 1998 for robbery and false imprisonment of a family in Co Tipperary. McCormack had no convictions for violence, while Kelly had no previous convictions.
Mr Flynn, in a victim impact statement, said the events of the night had changed the lives of his wife and family forever and that his three eldest children were receiving counselling. He also revealed his wife had been six weeks pregnant at the time and suffered a miscarriage days later.
Judge Raymond Groarke said the victims had been identified as a vulnerable target by the gang, who had put a large amount of planning into the raid and had been determined to use terror to achieve their aims. "I have difficulty conjuring up just what it must have been like in the Flynn home while this was taking place -- it's quite unimaginable.
"To tie up children like that ... and they were screaming and roaring to terrorise the children," he said.
The three men had admitted a series of charges, including having a shotgun at the Flynn home with intent to commit robbery, false imprisonment and robbery.
He imposed four prison sentences of 12 years and two of 10 years on Freeman. McCormack was sentenced to five terms of eight years--all sentences to run concurrently. Kelly was given a six-year term with the final year suspended.