Tuesday 20 March 2018

Trio took €67,000 from victim after threatening him with hitman

Elaine Keogh

A jury took less than an hour to convict three men of taking nearly €70,000 from a man who was threatened at gunpoint.

They had told him a hitman was coming to get him and he would have to pay them €10,000 to call him off, the trial heard.

After the unanimous verdict was read out yesterday, some members of the extended families of the accused began to cry.

Gerard Stokes (30), of Park 1, Muirhevnamore, Dundalk; David McDonagh (32), of Reask Court, Navan; and James McDonagh (45) of Grange Drive, Muirhevnamore, Dundalk had denied the offences.

All three were found guilty of demanding money with menaces from Niall Hearty on July 7, 2009, at Gerard Stokes's home and on the following day at Drive 1, Muirhevnamore, Dundalk.

Dundalk Circuit Court heard Mr Hearty was awarded €159,000 compensation after a car accident and the money was lodged to his bank a few days before the offences took place.

Mr Hearty went to Stokes's house after getting a phone call and found the three men waiting.

Stokes said they wanted €90,000 for a cigarette but Mr Hearty said he did not have the money. He said Stokes picked up a shotgun that had been under a jacket on the kitchen table and told him: "We will shoot you now and your family."

They said they knew where his daughters were. He twice went to his bank on July 7 and each time looked for €30,000 for them.

The court heard that in all he gave them €57,000 that day. The following day all three called to him and said it would cost him another €10,000 to call off a hitman who was on his way from Dublin to kill him.

He gave a bank draft for that amount to Stokes.

In all, he handed over €67,000. Bank staff told how Mr Hearty had appeared under pressure. Retired detective garda Enda Rice agreed the victim was "scared".

Before he made his complaint to gardai he had sought assurances that he would be protected from the three men, the court heard.

The jury returned their guilty verdicts on all charges after just under one hour of deliberations.

All three were remanded in custody for sentencing at a later date.

Irish Independent

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