Twelve years for holding pharmacy staff hostage for hours
A MAN who escaped from a garda station went to a pharmacy a day later and held staff members hostage during a three-hour siege and threatened to kill them and himself during phone calls to gardaI.
Gerard Browne (30) of 26 Cooleens Close, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, was sent to prison for 12 years at Clonmel Circuit Court after pleading guilty to a number of offences including false imprisonment, robbery, aggravated burglary and escaping Garda custody.
Five years of the term was a suspended sentence for a separate offence, which he was subject to at the time of the siege on June 26 last at Cashel in Tipperary, and is now activated.
His senior counsel Michael Peart told the court today that the scenes resembled the movies Dog Day Afternoon or Bonnie and Clyde and the court also heard that Browne had a number of scenarios in his head at the time of the pharmacy siege, including wanting to be shot by a member of the gardaí; bringing “tablets to prison and having a party”; and “going out in a blaze of glory”.
He arrived at O’Dwyer’s Pharmacy at Ladyswell Street in Cashel at about 9.50am on June 26 last and threatened staff with a kitchen knife before ordering them to lock the front door. He had escaped from Clonmel garda station the previous day after being arrested for theft at a local shop.
Browne told the pharmacist, Michael Dalton, to tie up staff member Zoe O’Connor. He then rang Clonmel garda station and asked to speak to Detective Sergeant Seamus Maher.
He said on the phone he had “nothing to lose” and was holding two hostages with a gun. “If things aren’t done my way, I’ll shoot one of them,” he said, adding that if he saw a garda outside the door he would “shoot myself and shoot one of them”.
He didn’t actually have a gun at the time but, at one point during the siege which lasted about three hours, he told Zoe O’Connor to go out to a nearby toy shop and buy a number of toy guns. If she got help while out, he told her, he would “slit Michael Dalton’s throat”.
While outside, Ms O’Connor went to pharmacy owner Sean O’Dwyer’s main branch on Main Street and told him what was happening. Mr O’Dwyer went back to the Ladyswell pharmacy, with Ms O’Connor and a fourth staff member, Caroline Breen. Gerard Browne tied them up.
He told staff at various points he wanted Oxycontin, Valium, Morphine, and Xanax.
The court heard he had a drug addiction and had a “wretched upbringing” and spent much of his life in and out of prison.
He made “a list of demands” to gardai, including three squad cars at the scene, ambulances, the garda emergency response unit and the street to be sealed off. He also got staff to tell gardai over the phone that he had a gun.
Detective Garda Dermot Fitzgerald told the court that Gerard Browne broke into the constituency office of Tom Hayes TD in Cashel at about 2.30am on June 20 last and stole computer equipment while ransacking the property.
Browne committed an aggravated burglary at a sheltered housing unit in Clonmel on the day he escaped from the station and, the following day, carried out the robberies and false imprisonment in Cashel.
Judge Thomas Teehan sentenced him to four years in prison for the false imprisonment charges and the robbery charge, to run consecutively with a three-year sentence for aggravated burglary and also consecutively with the five-year suspended sentence which was hanging over him at the time.