Tuesday 21 November 2017

Academic found guilty of abducting German boy (11)

Thomas Pfeiffer was denied bail. John Power
Thomas Pfeiffer was denied bail. John Power

Ciaran Murphy

A MAN who was accused of abducting and falsely imprisoning an 11-year-old boy for two nights has been found guilty.

Thomas Pfeiffer (51), a German academic who has worked at the Waterford Institute of Technology, appeared at the Circuit Criminal Court yesterday on day four of his trial for abducting and imprisoning the then 11-year-old child.

The charges relate to a German boy, in Ireland to improve his English, who was zipped into a sleeping bag for two nights.

Pfeiffer, a doctor of computer science, had pleaded not guilty to child abduction and three counts of false imprisonment. However, a jury found him guilty of child abduction after nearly four hours of deliberations last night.

He was found guilty on two counts of false imprisonment but cleared of one count of the same charge.

Pfeiffer, with an address at Meadowview, Coolfin, in Portlaw, Co Waterford, picked up the German boy at Dublin Airport on January 31, 2009, and drove him to his home.

The boy – now 16 – had arrived in Ireland as part of a programme advertised as 'English – K12', in order to improve his English. The prosecution maintains that the boy and his family originally understood he would be taken directly to his host family in Tramore.

When the host mother, who gave evidence on Wednesday, said she could not have the boy over that weekend, alternative arrangements were made for the boy to stay with a Liam Cahill and family at an address in Carrick-on-Suir.

However, postal worker James Walsh told the court that he "never heard" of this man, his family or a place name supplied named 'Riversbend'.

Instead, the boy arrived from Berlin and spent two days with Pfeiffer at his home.

When Pfeiffer, also from Berlin, met with the boy at the airport, he put him into a harness and placed the boy in a booster seat in the backseat of his car. The man then drove the boy to his home, 194km away.

One of the counts of imprisonment related to the harness but Pfeiffer was cleared of this charge. The boy's mother and aunt both told the court of their upset and anger to discover that the boy had spent the weekend at Pfeiffer's house.

After the boy's complaint, his mother told the host family mother in a call that she did not want her son to have any further dealings with the doctor during his five-month stay.

The court heard how Pfeiffer had measured and weighed the boy upon arrival at Portlaw.

The boy's mother last night said: "We always thought he would be found guilty so we are not surprised."

The boy's aunt said: "The police here did the most wonderful job."

The prosecution, in closing, said Pfeiffer knew that the boy was not going to any other family including "the Cahill family" because "they did not exist".

"Thomas Pfeiffer was Thomas Cahill," the prosecution said, telling the jury they were entitled to believe "he very carefully and deliberately ensured" the boy stayed with him that weekend.

The boy's mother said that he was too drained from the experience to go to court yesterday.

"He will be happy," she said.

The aunt said the boy told her: "I went through with it and we coped with it. This is all about prevention... that this will never happen again."

The court heard that Pfeiffer had placed €75,000, the equity of his home in Ireland, as bail. However, bail was denied last night and he was remanded in custody to appear at a sitting of the court in January.

Irish Independent

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