Thursday 18 December 2014

Tiger raiders stole family's dreams and future, says hurling star

Aoife Nic Ardghail, Conor Gallagher and Allison Bray

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

Former Kilkenny hurler Adrian Ronan and his wife Mary. Courtpix
Stephen Freeman at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Collins Courts

FORMER All-Ireland hurling star Adrian Ronan said his home became "a crime scene" leaving his wife and children terrified a year after they experienced "hell on Earth" as victims of a tiger kidnapping.

The Kilkenny legend and bank worker said his wife Mary and the couple's three children slept in a single room for 12 months after the November 3, 2009 raid on their home due to the terror they experienced that night and the following day.

"The raiders stole our happiness, our dreams and our future," he said.

"All of this just to rob the Bank of Ireland in Kilkenny."

Speaking at the sentencing hearing yesterday of Stephen Freeman (27), of Ballcurris Gardens, Ballymun, Dublin, Mr Ronan, who was working for the Kilkenny branch of the Bank of Ireland, said his family still feels unsafe in their home.

"Every strange car that passes our house becomes suspect. Little things like hearing a Dublin accent cause anxiety," he told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

Freeman has pleaded guilty to attempting to steal cash with others from Bank of Ireland, Parliament Street, Kilkenny.

He wept in court as Mr Ronan described the impact of the raid, including the hurler's worries over how he would cope if his wife was murdered.

Hostage

Mary Ronan, who submitted a victim impact statement to the court, described being held hostage for eight hours at a disused weather station where a gunshot was fired into the ceiling above her, wondering if "the next shot would be for me" and not knowing what "torture" her children were experiencing.

"Those masked and armed raiders stole our children's safety and freedom within our own home and outside," she added.

The court heard that Freeman's role in the raid was to collect and transport the money following the raid.

He also admitted using force on Adrian and Mary Ronan and their children to frighten them. He has seven previous convictions at the district court level.

Det Insp Michael Hennebry told Judge Desmond Hogan that the couple were awakened at 5am to find three masked and armed men in their bedroom who then locked the children and their mother in a bathroom before binding Mr Ronan's hands with cable ties and telling him: "You're going to do a job for us. We're taking your wife and you're going to get us €3million."

Mr Ronan was told by the raiders: "You do what we tell you and no harm will happen to you. You f*** up and she's dead," and "Do you want your kids to be without a mother for Christmas?", the court heard.

Mr Ronan was then forced to take his children to the bank with him.

The ordeal ended after Mrs Ronan freed herself and raised the alarm after her captor left.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending, said Freeman had run up large gambling debts and the raiders had exploited this.

"He regrets not having the moral courage to walk out the door and risk being shot himself," he added.

The judge remanded Freeman on continuing bail to be sentenced later this month.

Irish Independent

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