An eight-year-old girl told gardaí she thought her “Daddy was going to die” when he was assaulted by an armed gang during an aggravated burglary in her family’s home, a court heard today.
Seven men in their 20s from Dublin who have admitted the offence will be sentenced on Thursday for their part in the incident at the home of Mark and Emma Corcoran and their three young daughters.
The gang entered the family’s house in Burnchurch, a rural area outside Killenaule in Co Tipperary, as trespassers armed with a shotgun, handgun and machete, early on November 21, 2013.
A hearing at Clonmel Circuit Court was told today that the Corcorans were in fear of their lives and the lives of their children, aged eight, six and two at the time, during the incident.
The seven who have pleaded guilty to the offence are John Joyce (21) of Lentisk Lawn, The Donaghies, Donaghmede, Dublin; Dean Byrne (22) of Cabra Park, Dublin 7; Patrick Gately (28) of Primrose Grove, Darndale, Dublin 17; Thomas Flynn (21) of Moatview Avenue, Coolock, Dublin 17; Patrick Joyce (23) of Beaumont Hall, Beaumont Woods, Dublin 9; Michael McDonagh (23) of Tara Lawns, Belcamp Lane, Coolock, Dublin 17 and Donal O’Hara (22) from Glin Park, Coolock, Dublin 17.
They travelled in convoy from Dublin to Tipperary, stealing a car in Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny on the way, on the night of November 20/21 in 2013 and were apprehended by gardaí at two locations on the motorway system as they tried to make their getaway back to Dublin.
Detective Sergeant James White told the court that Mark Corcoran, who was sleeping in a back bedroom as he had an early start the next morning and didn’t want to wake the rest of the family, was awoken by a man in a black balaclava, “brandishing a large knife” and another man who had a handgun. They shouted “where is the safe” and “where is the money”.
Mark Corcoran was led into the living area of the house and struck in the face with the butt of a gun and sustained a fractured eye socket. His hands were tied behind his back with cable-ties and one of the raiders knelt on his back.
“The eldest two children were awake and in the hallway,” Sgt White said. “They had a clear view of what was going on. They could see what was happening to their father. They could hear the raiders making threats.”
Mr Corcoran 'thought he was going to be shot', the court heard. “He was in fear of his life.”
His wife Emma Corcoran was awoken by the sound of glass breaking and made a 999 call before leaving her phone under the bed with the call still active. “The one thing that is most clear in the 999 recording was the terrified screams of the children,” Sgt White said.
At one point Emma Corcoran was 'forcibly removed' from her bedroom and saw her husband being struck in the face. She was also told “we’ll kill your f**king kids” by one of the raiders. “Emma Corcoran was without doubt in fear of her life and that of her three children.”
The Corcorans had a gym equipment-supply business at the time, which they since closed as a result of their ordeal, but there was no safe in the house. The raiders took about €1,300 in cash, which represented the previous day’s takings and petty cash, as well as jewellery.
The raiders took the Corcorans’ family car, a seven-seat Kia Sorrento, as well as their own Volkswagen Passat, to make their escape.
One of the vehicles, containing five of the gang, was apprehended near Monasterevin, and armed gardaí arrested the men at about 4.25am. Some of the stolen property was found in the car.
The other car, the stolen Kia, was eventually stopped just before Newlands Cross and two men inside were arrested - Patrick Gately who was driving and Dean Byrne.
Mark Corcoran was in court but did not give evidence, while his wife was not present for the hearing. Victim impact statements were read out for all five members of the family, in which Mr Corcoran said he felt an enormous sense of guilt because he couldn’t do anything to protect his wife and children during the burglary.
“My eldest daughter was standing over me, crying ‘Daddy is dead’. I can only describe it as being like being at my own funeral, without being dead.”
In her statement, Emma Corcoran said the happiness and memories from the house in which she’d grown up had been taken away. “I will never get over seeing my husband being beaten in front of me that night and my kids looking on. My kids wake up every night with nightmares and live in fear of what happened.”
The couple’s eldest daughter said in a victim impact statement: “I thought my Daddy was going to die when the robbers beat him up. There was blood everywhere. I don’t feel safe at home any more. Whenever I hear a bang, I think the robbers are back.”
The youngest daughter, who was two at the time, was awake during the incident and was found in her cot, “rocking herself and her teddy” and “shaking with fear”.
Judge Teehan said he will pass down the sentences on Thursday.