Saturday 19 January 2019

Trio jailed over foiled cash-in-transit armed robbery

Stefan Saunders (right) outside Trim Courthouse
Stefan Saunders (right) outside Trim Courthouse

Nicola Donnelly

Three men were jailed for seven-and a-half years after gardai foiled a cash-in-transit armed robbery nearly two years ago.

Stefan Saunders (41) and his associates Francis Murphy (39) and Damien Noonan (32) had been targeting €2.2m in a security van and ATM in Dunboyne, Co Meath, in what a judge described as a “professionally planned and organised joint venture enterprise”.

Trim Circuit Court heard the trio went to “extraordinary lengths” to protect themselves against leaving their DNA at the scene by wearing tight clothes, ski scarves and two sets of latex gloves. Saunders had been wearing a bulletproof vest.

Saunders, of Hazelbury Park, Clonee, Co Meath; Murphy, originally from Finglas but now of Carranstown, Drogheda Road, Duleek, Co Meath; and Noonan, of Rusheeny Court, Hartstown, Dublin 15, all denied conspiracy to commit robbery at the Yeats Centre, Navan Road, Dunboyne, on October 7, 2016.

Saunders, who had two previous road traffic convictions, and Murphy, who had a previous conviction for unlawful possession of an imitation firearm and drugs for sale or supply, also pleaded guilty to being in possession of a Makarov 8mm handgun with eight rounds of ammunition and a crowbar with the intention of robbery.

Noonan, who had nine previous road traffic convictions along with a conviction for possessing ammunition and fireworks, also pleaded guilty to being in possession of a stolen BMW X5 4x4.

The court heard all three men had strong work ethics but different circumstances resulted in them being faced with financial difficulties.

Detectives from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) had placed the trio under surveillance for two months before they caught the would-be robbers “red-handed” on the day.

Detective Superintendent Justin Kelly said officers received confidential information indicating a potential robbery on a cash-in-transit van.

Saunders and Noonan were seen leaving different parts of Dublin on four Friday mornings.

Both men took different routes each time but ended up at Cafe 13 opposite a disused Bank of Ireland in Dunboyne.

“The common denominator was that a G4S security van was making deliveries to an ATM across from Cafe 13,” said Det Supt Kelly.

On three occasions in September and early October in the early hours of the morning, the lock on a roller shutter of the disused bank was broken, the alarm disabled and a lock on a metal cage covering a back window was broken, while inside the bank a sensor alarm was interfered with.

In the early hours of October 7, 2016, a 4x4 was seen driving to the rear car park and two men, identified as Saunders and Murphy, got inside the disused bank, while Noonan parked the 4x4 near Main Street.

A team of 50 detectives were in place and several hours later, when the G4S security van pulled up, detectives swooped.

Det Supt Kelly said Saunders threw the loaded semi-automatic gun onto the floor while Murphy threw the crowbar away. Both men were arrested.

Noonan, whose brother Ciaran was abducted and murdered in 2011, and who was the ‘look-out man’ and driver of the getaway vehicle, was arrested in the BMW, which was stolen the previous year from Hartstown.

All three defendants, who are married with children, offered no resistance.

They were each sentenced to 10 years, with the final two-and-a-half years suspended, for conspiracy to commit robbery, backdated to October 7, 2016.

After the sentencing, Det Supt Seamus Boland said: “This successful outcome demonstrates An Garda Siochana will deploy the resources that are necessary to target groups and people who are willing to use firearms to commit crime for financial gain against ordinary citizens who are going about their daily work.”

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