Tuesday 12 December 2017

Unshaven man dressed as wheelchair-bound woman jailed for part in botched robbery

Sonya McLean

A MAN who tried to rob a building society while dressed as a wealthy wheelchair-bound woman has been jailed for this and another attempted robbery.

Thomas Clark (43), arrived at the building society unshaven and wearing a poor quality black wig. He was being pushed in the wheelchair by his accomplice Martin Collins (21).

Collins had previously made an appointment with the manager on the pretence that a woman he was caring for had been awarded €2.9 million by the State and wanted to invest it.

Detective Sergeant Peter Woods told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that the manager of the building society, Michael Doyle, noticed that the “older woman” was wearing what was obviously a black wig when Collins pushed her into his office.

Collins left the wheelchair facing the door, which Mr Doyle thought was strange.

Clark then got out of the wheelchair and produced what Mr Doyle thought was a shotgun. It was then that he noticed that it was a man dressed as a woman and described his face as being round and unshaven.

Clark shouted ‘Get down on the floor’ and Mr Doyle realised the weapon he had in his hand was actually an imitation firearm. Collins then produced a similar weapon but this was a hatchet made to look like a gun.

Det Sgt Woods said Mr Doyle then shouted at the raiders; “Would you ever fuck off,” before telling them to “stop being stupid.”

Collins then struck Mr Doyle on the back of the leg, causing him to bleed, before the robbers ran from the building society empty-handed to a waiting car and sped off towards Blackrock.

Gardai arrested them a short time later.

Both Collins of Neilstown Gardens, Clondalkin and Clark with addresses at Keeper Road, Crumlin and Chaplains Place, Clondalkin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempted robbery at Permanent TSB on Lower Kilmadcud Road, Stillorgan on October 20, 2010.

Clark also pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery of the EBS in Leixlip the following day. The court heard that while running to escape from pursuing gardai, Clark jumped into the River Liffey and tried to swim across it.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Clark to consecutive prison terms totalling six years but suspended the final two on strict conditions.

He accepted that Clark is “to some degree institutionalised and has not had the best start in life”.

Last February Judge Nolan jailed Collins for three years for his role in the crime.

The court heard that Collins has 55 previous convictions, while Clark has 33. Both were drug addicts at the time.

Det Sgt Woods agreed with Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Clark, that it had been “a venture that was unlikely to be successful”.

Garda David Kerry told Mr Hayes that during the Leixlip EBS robbery Clark forced a staff member inside as she was opening up for the morning. He demanded that she open the safe.

The woman replied that she needed a colleague’s assistance to open it and that it would be another ten minutes before that person was due in work.

Clark threatened the woman with a gun but she couldn’t see that he had one. She noticed he did have a white plastic bag that had something pointing out of it.

The raider pushed the woman into a staff kitchen and told her to lie on the floor before he left the building society. As he was leaving another female member of staff was coming into work.

Clark grabbed her by the arm and tried to drag her inside but she managed to pull out of him and they ended up out on the street. A number of people then witnessed the scuffle, came to the woman’s assistance and called the gardai.

Clark ran off. A passing postman tried to cut him off but failed. Gardai arrived and Clark jumped into the River Liffey and tried to swim across it.

He was caught by gardai and made full admissions in interview. A hatchet was later recovered nearby.

Mr O’Higgins told Judge Nolan his client has a long history of drug addiction and got into trouble from a young age.

He said he was essentially institutionalised having been sent to a detention centre when he was 11 years old.

Counsel said his client had been psychologically assessed as having a borderline personality disorder.

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