Friday 30 September 2016

Boy who clung on to moving car to save his sister is 'a hero'

Abduction foiled as 10-year-old's bravery enabled girl to escape

Eoghan MacConnell

Published 30/10/2015 | 02:30

Michael Martin leaving Portlaoise Circuit Court
Michael Martin leaving Portlaoise Circuit Court

A 10-year-old boy was hailed a hero after he clung to the window of a moving SUV as a man attempted to abduct his sister.

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The exceptional bravery of the youngster was commended at Portlaoise Circuit Court yesterday during the sentencing hearing of Michael Martin.

Martin (36), of Shandon Court, Yellow Road, Waterford city, pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of an 11-year-old girl following an incident at Cullohill, Co Laois on March 4.

In a victim impact statement, the girl's father said: "This man stole a significant portion of her innocence. Our lives were permanently changed that day.

"You don't like to see your children being fearful of everyday, ordinary things."

Garda Anne Marie Deegan told the court the girl and her twin brothers were playing in the rural area when the girl was picked up by a man driving an SUV and "put into the SUV through the driver's door across the passenger seat".

As the man attempted to drive away, one of the brothers "ran up, reached in and attempted to strike the driver in the vehicle", she said.

The boy continued "hanging off" the jeep with his feet off the ground. Martin became distracted by the boy's actions and the girl managed to escape from the vehicle.

The three children gave a description and provided a partial registration of the SUV and CCTV was examined. Gardaí also became aware of an earlier report of a similar vehicle acting suspiciously at Durrow.

Martin was arrested the following day and both the girl and her brother later identified the defendant in two separate identity parades at Portlaoise Garda Station.

Martin pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in July.

Garda Deegan described the siblings as "exceptional children", while prosecuting counsel Will Fennelly said "they were obviously very courageous children" and commended the "plucky" brother.

The court heard that Martin, who is originally from Dublin, has 92 previous convictions including for fraud, robbery, an assault of a girl and threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a woman. He was convicted of false imprisonment in 2004.

Courageous

Defending counsel, Una Ní Raifeartaigh, said at that time her client had struck up a relationship with a girl in her teens and the pair went to Northern Ireland, but after four days "they came back down on the train and were met by gardaí at Connolly Station".

Handing the judge a 16-page psychological report on her client - who has a low IQ and was "actively suicidal" - she said: "His childhood makes for grim reading", adding that he was subjected to sexual, physical abuse and sustained neglect as a child and had begun abusing alcohol as a teen.

The judge remanded Martin in custody to continue sentencing next Thursday.

Irish Independent

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