Sunday 26 May 2019

Father whose wife and two teenage sons were held at gunpoint during tiger kidnapping says attack was 'heinous and inhumane'

Paul and Marie Richardson
Paul and Marie Richardson

Sonya McLean

A Securicor worker who was the victim of what he described as a “heinous and inhumane” tiger kidnapping has said it was committed for “one reason only, greed”.

Last May Niall Byrne (36), Mark Farrelly (47), Christopher Corcoran (71) and David Byrne (45) were convicted by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury for their various roles in the €2.08 million cash-in-transit van robbery, during which Paul Richardson's family home was raided and he and his family were threatened at gunpoint.

The gang forced Mr Richardson to go to work the next day while his wife Marie and their teenage sons Ian and Kevin were held at gunpoint in the Dublin mountains until he had delivered the cash to a car park in west Dublin.

Niall Byrne of Crumlin Road Flats, Dublin, Mark Farrelly of Moatview Court, Priorswood, Coolock, Christopher Corcoran of Rosedale, Raheny and David Byrne of Old Brazil Way, Knocksedan, Swords had all pleaded not guilty to robbing Mr Richardson and Securicor of €2.08 million on March 14, 2005 and to the false imprisonment of the Richardson family at their home at Ashcroft, Raheny on March 13 and 14, 2005.

Niall Byrne, who was considered “the inside man”, was convicted of conspiracy to robbery. The jury, who deliberated for just under 18 hours, was unable to reach a majority verdict in relation to a charge of kidnapping against him.

This was the third time Niall Byrne was prosecuted at trial, with the other two trials ending with hung juries.

The jury convicted Mark Farrelly, Christopher Corcoran and David Byrne of robbery and false imprisonment of the four Richardsons.

This trial, which began last January, was the fifth time the case went to trial.

Following a sentence hearing today, Judge Melanie Greally said she needed time to consider the case and remanded the men in continuing custody until July 16, next for sentence.

Mr Richardson said in his victim impact report today that he spent his 60th birthday in court, having just given evidence for the fifth time. He said he could not leave the court after giving his evidence because he promised his family “I would keep going until justice prevailed”.

“I lost a part of my life that night and I will never get it back,” Mr Richardson said before he added that the most important thing in life was “family and love”.

He said he and his family were terrorised and instead of being “in our home safe and warm” his wife and children were brought out “in the darkest of night and held against their will”.

Mr Richardson said the raiders had “no regard for the damage they caused” and said they never contacted him by walkie-talkie, as they had promised, to tell him his family were safe.

He said the crime was “committed for one thing and one thing only; greed”.

Marie, Ian and Kevin Richardson also described in victim impact statements, read into court by Seamus Clarke SC, how the kidnapping affected their own lives.

Marie said the home they had made “for ourselves and our boys” was destroyed that night. She said she had go back to work full-time as her husband struggled and was unable to go back to work for three years.

“I took a stand that we would rebuild our lives. I had to push the family along. It was very hard being strong for everyone,” Mrs Richardson said. She said it was very hard leaving Paul at home alone, while she went to work, because she was “not sure what he would do”.

Kevin Richardson, who was 13 years old when his home was raided, said that for the last 13 years he had been asked to bring back memories, before many different jurors, memories that he hoped would be erased.

He said that night had followed him “like the plague”, he would wake up shouting in his sleep and said his life had been disrupted.

He said he had been willing to sacrifice his friends, following the kidnapping, to move home, “for a new setting”. “This is not something a 13-year-old should be thinking,” he concluded before he added that “a network of strong supportive people have helped me”.

Ian Richardson's victim impact statement, said the look of fear in the eyes of his father, mother and brother would never leave him. He said his schooling suffered, as did his relationships with his family and friends.

“The image of a gun being put to me will never leave me,” Ian Richardson said before he added that having to give evidence five times was like “opening a wound over and over and salt being rubbed in it”.

He said during the kidnapping there were times he worried he would never see his Dad again.

“No one should be made feel like that because of greed and lack of humanity,” he concluded.

Farrelly and Corcoran and Jason Kavanagh of Corduff Avenue, Blanchardstown were convicted and jailed in 2009 but were released in 2012 after the convictions were overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal on the back of a Supreme Court ruling that search warrants used in this and other investigations were unconstitutional.

In 2015 Farrelly and Corcoran were acquitted of all charges when Judge Mary Ellen Ring ruled that the State could not use the mobile phone evidence. A year later the Court of Appeal said Judge Ring was mistaken and overturned the acquittals. Kavanagh was convicted again in 2013.

The court heard that Farrelly, a married man with five children, had 25 previous convictions for offences including robbery and theft.

Corcoran, who is a separated man with adult children, had worked most of his life with Telecom Eireann. He had five previous convictions for minor road traffic offences and intoxication.

David Byrne, a father of three who had recently separated from his wife, had been a taxi driver but now works with a film studio in Bray.

Niall Byrne, a married man with four children, has worked as a taxi driver since his dismissal from Securicor. He has three previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Superintendent Paul Scott told Seamus Clarke SC, prosecuting, that on the night of Sunday March 13, 2005, while Mrs Richardson was at home with their 13 year old son Kevin, armed men burst into the family home.

The men were wearing boiler suits and balaclavas and armed with guns, including a sub-machine gun. A short time later Mr Richardson arrived home, with their older son Ian, who was due to sit his Leaving Certificate that year.

Supt Scott said Ian had a panic attack and fell on the floor. He started to hyperventilate and the raiders, who were concerned about the level of noise, tried to calm him down and gave him a glass of water and a paper bag.

Mr Richardson told the trial that at this point one raider told him: “Get him to shut the fuck up or I'll get him to shut up”.

“He pointed the gun at my son's head. I'll never forget that as long as I live,” Mr Richardson testified.

Mr Richardson was taken out and brought to the dining room where he was told to go to work the following morning, collect the cash and drop it off in a car park. He was told that his family would be released if he did this.

The gang took Polaroid photographs of the family flanked by two armed men and they gave these to Mr Richardson to help him convince his work colleagues to co-operate with the gang's plans.

Supt Scott said some members of the gang then loaded Marie Richardson and her sons into the back of a van and drove them across the city and into the Wicklow mountains, the court heard.

The gang held the family in the back of the van overnight. The next morning they marched the family up into a nearby woods and used cable ties to tie them up and then left them there.

Supt Scott said during this time, Mr Richardson drove to work and collected the cash for his day's job. He then drove to the Angler's Rest pub in Dublin's Strawberry Beds and dropped the cash in the pub's car park.

His instructions were then to drive west along the N4 until the kidnappers contacted him to say his family had being released.

This call never came and Mr Richardson became increasingly anxious and began to experience chest pains. His colleagues forced him to stop the van and they raised the alarm.

Mr Richardson collapsed on the side of the motorway and was brought to Mullingar hospital by ambulance and treated for chest pains.

Supt Scott said at this stage Mrs Richardson and her sons had managed to free themselves from the cable ties using a penknife. They walked down the woods and met a forest ranger who raised the alarm.

During the trial the jury were told that Farrelly was the mastermind of the gang and his phone was used to co-ordinate the movements of the various gang members.

Corcoran was a “scout” during the kidnap, driving ahead of the van to make sure nobody interrupted the progress of the kidnap, while David Byrne was one of the two men who was in the vehicle that brought the Richardsons into the mountains.

Supt Scott said the investigation initially focused on any mobile phone activity in the remote mountain area on the night. Gardai identified two mobile numbers they believed were used by the gang.

From analysing the records of these two numbers they built up a network of nine mobile phones which the State alleged were used by the various raiders.

Supt Scott agreed with Mr Clarke that the prosecution evidence then focused on linking some of these numbers to the defendants. The jury heard that other people were also involved but that these people were not before the court.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending Niall Byrne, that he had been waiting for 12 years to have the case finalised and had undergone three lengthy trials. He said he was 23 years old at the time of the offence.

He said his client was ultimately released on High Court bail but had to abide by strict conditions.

Counsel for Niall Byrne said he had to sign on every day of his honeymoon and on the day of his stag. He was excused from signing on the days of his wedding and his child's birth.

He handed in numerous letters and testimonials that described his client as a dedicated, hard-working family man. His brothers also wrote on his behalf.

Ciaran O'Loughlin SC, defending Farrelly, handed in a letter from his client's wife asking the judge to take into account “her beautiful family” and described her husband as “the backbone” of that family. “In my heart I do not believe that my husband would be responsible for this,” she said.

John O'Kelly SC, for Corcoran, submitted that, considering his age, his client was an appalling candidate for prison. He said his co-operation with the garda investigation reflected the type of man he had been all his life.

Anthony Sammon SC, for David Byrne said his client had “engaged in works for the value of the community and had given of himself”.

He said “one cannot but be moved by the predicament of the Richardson family, especially Paul Richardson who he said had borne the worst of the damage that was inflicted on them.

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