An armed robber whose raid on the home of a fast-food businessman was foiled by an elite Garda unit has been jailed for 14 years.
Niall Fitzpatrick (47) – nicknamed ‘Houdini’ after escaping from custody in 2002 – was jailed after committing the attempted aggravated burglary armed with a pump-action shotgun while on bail for charges of handling stolen property.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Fitzpatrick has 63 previous convictions, including two for armed robberies in Dublin and Cork and one for escaping from custody.
Fitzpatrick – a father of three children aged from one to seven – was emotionless as Judge David Riordan warned that it was a very serious offence and merited a custodial sentence.
As he was later led from the courthouse Fitzpatrick shouted at assembled reporters: “I am innocent.”
Fitzpatrick was jailed for 14 years for attempted aggravated burglary and received a 10-year concurrent sentence for firearm offences.
He was convicted by a jury, after a 20-day trial, of the attempted aggravated burglary of the Cork home of fast-food entrepreneur Pat Glavin.
The trial heard that Mr Glavin used a large safe in the office of his home to occasionally handle the cash takings of his businesses.
The attempted burglary was foiled by armed gardai who, having received intelligence about the raid, were lying in wait for the three-man gang.
Mr Glavin, his partner Esther, and their two children, aged nine and 12 years, had been moved to safety earlier that evening by gardai.
Armed officers used stun grenades to stop the attempted robbery shortly before 11pm when three men were spotted by the office window.
The defendant had denied all the charges arising from events in Rougrane, Glanmire, Co Cork on August 11, 2013.
Fitzpatrick, of Corrin Close, The Glen, Cork, was charged with possession of a 12-gauge pump-action Remington shotgun and ammunition and attempted aggravated burglary at the home of Mr Glavin.
Defence counsel Brendan Nix repeatedly told the trial Fitzpatrick was not present at the scene that evening.
“I have never seen in my entire years such a lust to put a person behind bars,” he said.
He also claimed during the sentencing hearing that armed gardai had “sexed-up machinery and ratcheted weapons” to create drama around the court.
He said his client maintained he was with friends in Cork that night and not in Glanmire.
The trial heard Sgt Daniel Cohalan of the armed Regional Support Unit insisted he saw the defendant in Glanmire.
Sgt Cohalan said: “I could see three persons staring at me. In the middle was Niall Fitzpatrick, the defendant in this case. Mr Fitzpatrick was holding a shotgun... I shouted: ‘Armed gardai, drop your weapon’.”
Two other men have since been jailed for 12 years and seven years for their roles.