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Taxi kidnap duo jailed for assault

Dundalk taxi driver praised for his bravery by court


Two Cullyhanna men convicted of the sexually violent kidnap and robbery of a Dundalk taxi driver have been sentenced at Newry crown court this week.

Robert Tasker (26) known to police as "Robbie" and Antoin McCooey (25) aka McQuillan, both of separate addresses in of St Patrick's Park were found guilty by majority verdict of kidnap, robbery, threats to kill and common assault in the early hours of November 29, 2016.

Former Armagh GAA starlet, Tasker has been told by Her Honour Judge Melody McRamsay to realise his best days in sport are truly behind him as he was being led into custody.

References from county and club level GAA football coaches were handed in on behalf of Tasker.

Convicted kidnapper, McCooey will now miss the first years of his new children's life, with his girlfriend due to have twins by the new year.

It was said by defence in mitigation for McCooey that he had lost a close friend who had been beaten up and died in 2007.

Both men have continued with blanket denials of the kidnap related charges with the defence that they were not in the Skoda Octavia taxi in question.

The kidnap and robbery was described by Judge McReynolds as 'clearly bullying for the gratification of seeing another person suffer'.

Tasker also pleaded guilty to counts of possession and supply of cocaine and cannabis found during a search of his home seven months after the kidnap. Cannabis worth £3,700 totalling 373grms and 2.91grms of cocaine with a 34 per cent purity were discovered in his home, normal street traded cocaine was said to be at eight per cent purity.

Text messages showed that Tasker had been given advice on keeping small amounts of drugs in one place to avoid a longer jail sentence if caught.

Charges of possession and supply of sport enhancing drugs of testosterone and anabolic steroids have been left on the books.

Tasker was sentenced to seven years in total and McCooey received six years.

The two men will serve their time on 50 per cent remission with half in custody and the other half out on licence to engage with probation services for rehabilitation.

Their kidnap victim, father of four, Paul Kelly was praised for his 'bravery' in giving evidence during a two week trial.

In a victim impact statement it said that the former taxi driver, Paul Kelly was now suffering from PTSD with reactive psychological effects. The victim had since given up work due to the stress of the kidnap and robbery and was seeking therapy.

The crown court jury heard a harrowing recounting of his night of hell in a 25-minute journey from Park Street in Dundalk to the secluded Tullynaval Road just outside Silverbridge.

McCooey and Tasker had made highly sexual threats of raping their victim and killing him before robbing him of his night's talking whilst pointing a screwdriver to his head and a Stanley knife at his throat on the journey towards St Patrick's Church.

When another car passed the stationary taxi the two kidnappers got out of the taxi and walked away leaving Mr Kelly who hastily sped his car away.

In a shocking revelation, McCooey was unmasked as a repeat offender having pleaded guilty and been convicted of a previous hi-jacking and attack on another taxi driver in 2011.

The then 18-year-old played his part by physically restraining his victim whilst another male punched him multiple times in the face. The taxi was later set alight.

However, ahead of the jury's findings there were not told of the presence of Robbie Tasker in the same taxi with four other males. Tasker was never charged.

The kidnappers, described as 'pure evil' in court were found guilty on all counts in April with a pre-sentence report finding they were of a high risk of re-offending.

In a chilling aspect to the trial it was later revealed following the conviction during a bail application, that Tasker had made attempts to locate and intimidate the key witness of the crime just days before he was found guilty on all four counts at Newry crown court.

On the drugs charges the court heard how Tasker's phone linked him to a circle of people he would supply cocaine to with text stating, 'my nose needs a blast.. it's 100 per cent top stuff".

Judge McReynolds took into account Tasker's admission of a drug and gambling problem with a £10k debt to drug dealers outstanding.

However she summed up his problem: 'I have seen a lot of Mr Tasker in and outside of court and the only addiction problem he has is his ego.'

Photos on Tasker's phone showed images of extreme bravado with the Cullyhanna kidnapper clutching a hand full of money with the statement text: 'Crime pays….f**k work.'

Tasker was sentenced to concurrent jail terms for possession and supply of drugs, which totalled two years to be added to a five year term for the taxi case.

Her Honour Judge Melody McReynolds summed up the offending as a hybrid case of the kidnap and robbery.

'It would seem that prison has been good for both of defendants in terms of their addiction to substances,' said Judge McReynolds.

Both as culpable. With Tasker initiating the madness, but with McCooey requiring the full effort of Tasker to stop it," added Her Honour.

A 10 year restraining order has been put in place to protect the victim from any future harassment from the convicted kidnappers.

A similar order will be sought form An Garda Siochana something the judge stated would need to be in place post Brexit.