Thursday 20 July 2017

Woman 'tasted petrol in her mouth' and 'feared she'd be set on fire' during terrifying credit union robbery

Stock Picture
Stock Picture

Sonya McLean

A heroin addict robbed his local credit union after grabbing the supervisor by the neck and telling her he was pouring fuel over her to set her on fire.

The woman tasted what she believed was either perfume or petrol in her mouth when Gary Gregg (28) poured liquid out of a cannister over the top of her head.

He held a lighter in his hand and shouted “give me the money. I've a lighter here and fuel and I am going to set you on fire”.

Gregg of Ashlawn Park, Ballybrack, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery and making a threat to kill at Core Credit Union, Ballybrack on January 16, 2016. He was on bail at the time and has 87 previous convictions including 13 for robbery.

Garda Declan Hartley told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting, that the woman recognised Gregg immediately, even though he was wearing a balaclava, from his deep Dublin accent and a stammer.

She knew him since he was a baby and was acquainted with his family and grandparents. He had applied for a loan in the credit union six months previously and had been unsuccessful.

She said she couldn't believe it when she felt the liquid on her head. She knew Gregg was desperate for money and that he was prepared to use her as a tool to get it. She said she knew she had to get away from him and was absolutely terrified.

Gda Hartley said another woman, who had previously given Gregg a loan through her work, later told gardaí that she had met him outside the credit union minutes before the robbery.

She chatted with him and he had directed her out of her parking space as she was pulled in between two cars.

The robbery lasted 41 seconds during which time Gregg also threw fluid over the counter and ordered two other staff members to hand over cash before robbing €12, 241.

The supervisor who he had grabbed and prevented from getting into a back office, managed to duck under him and escape through the front door to raise the alarm.

A woman who had been in the credit union with her two young children, ran out of the building as soon as Gregg started threatening staff.

Gda Hartley said that neither the cash nor the cannister of fluid were ever recovered. The gardaí had taken the victim's cardigan for forensic testing but it was not properly preserved in a nylon evidence bag and the liquid that had been on it evaporated.

The garda said there was therefore no forensic evidence to confirm if Hartley had lighter fuel with him, as he had claimed, during the robbery.

Judge Melanie Greally adjourned sentencing to May 4 next to allow for offences before the District Court to be dealt with as this case must run consecutively to any sentence he may receive there. She also ordered that Gregg be assessed for drug treatment.

Seoirse Ó Dúlaing BL, defending, told Judge Greally that his client wished to apologise to the staff in the credit union for the terrifying ordeal.

He said when his client was 12 years old, his biological father approached him in a take-away and told him that his mother had committed suicide while serving a prison sentence.

Gregg, who had been brought up by his grandparents had never been told how his mother died and had not known his father before this.

He was unable to deal with the situation and resorted to taking drugs before he began committing crime.

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