Trio sentenced to almost 50 years for 'barbaric' and 'brutal' rural burglaries
Three men have been sentenced to combined jail terms of nearly 50 years for "barbaric" break-ins at two rural homes in Co Limerick, five years ago.
Patrick Roche, (53), from Kilcronan Close, Clondalkin in Dublin, along with his son, Philip Roche, (24), were jailed for 17 years and 15 years respectively. Patrick Roche’s son-in-law, Alan Freeman, (37), from Pearse Park, Tipperary Town, was jailed for 14 years.
The final three years of each sentence was suspended, reducing the total combined sentences from 46 years to 37 years.
Free legal aid was granted to the three defendants should they wish appeal the length of the sentences.
In May 2012, Patrick and Philip Roche broke into the isolated rural home of pensioner siblings Willie, Nora, and Chrissie Creed near Pallasgreen, Co Limerick.
They tied up Mr Creed and his sisters, aged in their 70s, before assaulting them, and leaving them covered in blood. Willie Creed was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver during the horrific incident.
The Roches fled with €5,000 in cash which they had discovered hidden in a sock.
In passing sentence today, presiding judge John Hannan described the burglary at the Creed's home as "a heinous, barbaric, and very violent attack on very vulnerable people".
"It was a sickening episode and it indicated a complete lack of empathy for older people," he said.
Six weeks prior to the burglary at the Creed farmhouse, Patrick and Philip Roche, along with Alan Freeman, broke into the home of the Gerry and Anne Garvey in Pallasgreen, Co Limerick.
They tied up Mr and Mrs Garvey, and their four children, and assaulted them.
The gang also threatened Mr Garvey at gunpoint, before they fled the house with cash.
Gardai later recovered some of the stolen money.
The three defendants, who had denied charges of aggravated burglary and false imprisonment at the Creed and Garvey residences, were found guilty of the charges by a jury at Limerick Circuit Court.
Judge Hannan said the defendants had acted "menacingly" and with "brutality" having planned the burglaries, worn dark clothing and balaclavas and armed themselves with weapons.
He said these type of aggravated burglaries cause "great harm" to victims and to the communities where they occur.
"It tears up the fabric of rural community life and causes suspicion and fear which spreads like a virus," he added.
The judge also said the burglaries had "shattered the tranquility" of the lives of both families.
"To say it was terrifying for them, would be one of the greatest understatements of all time."
In handing down the sentences Judge Hannan noted "a lack of mitigating factors", adding, "they are few and far between".
During the trial of Patrick and Philip Roche, for aggravated burglary and false imprisonment at the Creed's home, statements given to gardai by Willie Creed, 79, were read into evidence.
Mr Creed told gardai: “One of (the gang) rushed at me and knocked me to the ground. He was stabbing me on the head with a screwdriver. There was blood running down along my face.”
He said the gang threatened the siblings that their “throats would be cut” if they didn’t hand over cash.
The Creeds told gardai the burglars were masked and armed with a butcher’s knife, a screwdriver, sticks, and iron bars.
Willie Creed said: “They told us they would cut our throats. One of them said he’d cut off my hands.”
He said one of the raiders “slashed” him on the arm and told him, "We’re high on drugs and we can get real violent.”
Chrissie Creed, 77, told gardai she was saying prayers in her bedroom when she heard Nora “screaming”. Chrissie said when she came out of her bedroom she saw “two men standing over [Nora], and Willie had blood on his head”.
Chrissie said she tried to call her brother Tommy, but before she could dial for help, one of the raiders grabbed the phone from her. She said: “He laid into me, hitting me. He threw me across the room. I thought they were going to kill us.”
Nora Creed, 72, told gardai she opened the front door of the house and saw two men standing in front of her dressed in black. She said she was “punched backwards” on to a nearby window and tied up.
After the gang fled, Willie Creed managed to free himself and his sisters from their binds and raise the alarm.
Tommy Creed, 74, told the trial that he later arrived at his siblings house to find a scene of “mayhem”.
He said Willie, Nora, and Chrissie were “in the kitchen covered in blood”.
Speaking outside the court afterwards, Tommy Creed, who found his siblings covered in blood in their home following the burglary, said he felt justice had been served: "Very good... I was amazed with the sentences they got, and (it's) a pity there wouldn't be more judges like him - the country would be a safer place."
Gerry Garvey, who was threatened during the burglary at his home that his head would be blown off, said gardai had "proved their worth" in bringing the gang to justice.
"We are pleased generally that justice has been served. I think the sentences are a very good deterrent. I think it sends a very strong message out that crime is not acceptable and that rural communities can be protected... and that rural communities are valued," he said.
"If the gardai are given resources, they can do a very good job," Mr Garvey added.
Limerick Metropolitan Mayor, Sean Lynch, a former detective who was part of the investigation team, paid tribute to his former colleagues for pursuing the gang through "fantastic police work".
"It was a victory for An Garda Siochana and for rural Ireland," he said.
Cllr Lynch praised recently retired Superintendent Tom O'Connor, who led the investigation.
"The sentences handed down today are a clear message that communities and gardai will not put up with this type of crime, and that the judiciary will not tolerate it," Cllr Lynch added.
Patrick Roche had 139 previous convictions and is serving lengthy jail sentences. Philip Roche had 37 previous convictions. Alan Freeman had 22 previous convictions, including aggravated burglary at the home of a Tipperary firearms dealer.
Up to 40 guns were stolen during the aggravated burglary.