'They're going to kill my daddy' – a little girl's terror
A GANG of travelling thugs, who terrorised a business couple and their three young daughters, are believed to be responsible for dozens of robberies and burglaries around the country.
Last night, senior garda officers described the young gang as prolific criminals, who were known for using extreme violence although their hauls from the raids were relatively small.
Two of them are on bail in relation to other serious offences, and one of the men survived an assassination attempt this year.
Officers said their operation, which led to seven arrests and the recovery of the stolen €1,500 and jewellery, was one of the most significant since they launched the crackdown on travelling crime gangs 18 months ago.
Businessman Mark Corcoran is recovering from severe facial injuries, including a broken nose and damage to an eye, after he was struck with the butt of a shotgun during the raid on his home.
His wife Emma (37) was dragged around her home by the hair, and they were both warned by the thugs that their daughters, aged eight, six and two years, would be harmed if they did not co-operate.
One of the girls screamed: "They're going to kill my daddy" as she was confronted with her father being terrorised by the men.
Last night, seven suspects were in custody and being questioned about the possession of firearms under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, which meant they could be detained without charge for up to three days.
Six of the seven are from the Coolock area on the northside of Dublin, and the other is from the Phibsboro area.
They are all well known to the gardai, although the eldest is only 26 years old. Two of them are still in their teens.
Gardai said the gang had been one of their top targets under Operation Fiacla, which was set up by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to combat a surge in violent burglaries and thefts.
The gang set out in the early hours of yesterday in a Volkswagen Passat and a Saab but the Saab broke down near Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, and they abandoned it there.
Shortly afterwards, they replaced it by stealing a Subaru in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Around 3am, they arrived at the home of Mr Corcoran and his wife, who runs a gym equipment business, at Burnchurch, 2km outside Killenaule, Co Tipperary.
The gang smashed a front double-glazed window and when Mr Corcoran jumped out of bed and went to the front door he was confronted by armed raiders.
All of the raiders wore balaclavas and were armed with two shotguns.
Mr Corcoran bravely attempted to tackle one of the armed men and grabbed the barrel of his gun.
He was then violently assaulted by other gang members, who used the butt of the weapon to hit him in the face. "They didn't say anything, they just burst my face open straight away with the butt of a gun," he told friends.
Officers said he was given "a hammering" for trying to protect his family. Another thug grabbed his wife by the hair and began pulling her around the house.
Gardai said the gang issued threats, including a warning they would harm the children, and continued shouting at the couple as they tied up Mr Corcoran.
The children are believed to have been woken by the shouting but were not attacked.
Gardai said the raiders seemed to be under a mistaken impression that the couple kept a substantial amount of cash in the house and they told Mrs Corcoran to give them the contents of her safe.
They then ransacked the house but collected only €1,500 and a number of jewellery items, including rings and gold chains. They were not interested in other property in the house.
Emma Corcoran is listed with the Companies Registration Office as the owner of Crazy Fit At Home, a retailer of gym equipment, which was set up in 2009.
She was also a director of Dura Beds Ltd, alongside her older brother Paul, but that company was dissolved in 2010.
However, they are now both directors of another company, Faith and Ethan Collection Ltd, selling furniture and household goods.
When the gang finally left the house, they took the family's Kia Sorento SUV and the Passat, while the Subaru was left at the scene.
Shortly after they left, Mrs Corcoran managed to free herself from her bonds and alerted the gardai through a 999 call.
A number of gardai who had been on Fiacla patrols in the area were sent to the scene immediately and a description of the vehicles was issued to all units with a special watch kept on the motorways.
The vehicles were spotted travelling in convoy at the toll bridge south of Portlaoise and garda patrols including armed members of the regional response unit were directed towards the N7.
When gardai arrived there, the Sorento was missing.
Gardai began to pursue the Passat when they picked it up again north of Portlaoise, until it was intercepted by other patrols at the Naas bypass.
Five men were arrested there and taken initially to Naas and Newbridge garda stations before being transferred to stations in Tipperary.
Gardai believe those travelling in the Sorento "went offside" for a couple of hours and left the shotguns and balaclavas in a hideout.
Shortly before 9am, gardai spotted the Sorento speeding along the N7 from Naas and gave chase with the assistance of the air unit.
Meanwhile, armed units from the emergency response unit and the organised crime unit had also been called into the hunt. They moved into position near the traffic lights at Newlands Cross, near Bewleys hotel, and surrounded the Sorento, ramming the vehicle and bringing it to a halt.
Armed officers immediately rushed to the vehicle and ordered the driver and his passenger to get out. They were quickly searched and arrested.
Gardai recovered the stolen €1,500 and jewellery, which had been hidden in the vehicle. Last night, officers said they were satisfied they had recovered everything that had been stolen and were still looking for the firearms.
The two detained at Newlands Cross, aged 26 and 21, were also taken to stations in Co Tipperary for questioning.
By Tom Brady and Louise Hogan