Former GAA star jailed for threatening to kill taxi driver
A once talented GAA star now “past his best,” was handed a seven year jail sentence after he threatened to kill a taxi driver he and his friend had kidnapped and robbed.
Jailed alongside 27-year-old Robert Tasker at Newry Crown Court was Antoin McCooey (25) who was handed a six year sentence.
Jailing the pair and ordering their sentences to be spent half in custody and half under licences parole conditions, Judge Melody McReynolds told them the case was tainted by “bullying and bravado” against a “vulnerable” taxi driver.
Tasker, who was also facing sentencing for drugs offences in a separate case, was told by Judge McReynolds that despite defence submissions over his drug use, so far as she could see Tasker’s “major addiction problem is his own ego".
At the end of their trial last April, Tasker and McCooey, with separate address on St Patrick's Park, Cullyhanna, were each convicted of kidnapping, robbing, threatening to kill and assaulting Paul Kelly in November 2016.
In a separate case, arising from searches of his home as police investigated the crimes against the taxi driver, Tasker pleaded guilty to possessing and supplying cocaine and cannabis.
Seen as a rising star in GAA, Tasker was part of the Armagh side which won the All-Ireland minor football title in 2009 but only played a handful games for the county’s senior team.
During the trial the jury heard evidence from the taxi driver who told the seven men and five women that he believed he was going to die after Tasker held a Stanley knife to his throat and threatened to kill him.
Mr Kelly had picked up the two men from a Chinese restaurant in Dundalk just after midnight on November 29 2016 but when their chat became extremely sexualised, he said he was uncomfortable and the mood in the car palpably changed.
While Tasker produced a Stanley knife, McCooey produced a screwdriver which he moved in a stabbing motion.
Giving evidence to the court Mr Kelly, who has given up his job since the harrowing incident, told the jury: “The man in the back kept saying he was going to rape me... he kept saying this all the time, the whole way nearly to Cullyhanna.
“I kept thinking of my kids, it was close to Christmas and I thought they weren't going to have their daddy for Christmas.”
A terrified Mr Kelly handed the pair his nights takings of €120 but Tasker and McCooey continued to threaten him but his ordeal ended when he parked at the side of the road and they got out and walked away.
Judge McReynolds said although he was once a “very talented footballer,” Tasker now “has to come to terms with being past his best.”