Thursday 18 July 2019

Victim used Facebook to identify knife man

The victim of a knife robbery used Facebook to identify her attacker, the circuit criminal court has been told.

The incident took place at the Tesco service station, Drogheda Retail Park, on 13 February, 2017.

Richard Gallagher (32), who was living at the time in Knockbrack Downs, but is now resident on Achill Island, pleaded guilty to a robbery charge.

It was stated he committed the offence to clear a drugs debt.

Evidence was heard from Garda John Ryan who said that at 9.15am the shop assistant saw a man walking towards the filling station from a nearby roundabout.

He wore a hoodie, had a scarf covering his mouth and might have been wearing a beanie hat. From his eyes, she recognised him as a regular.

She told him he would have to remove his scarf, but he said 'Give me all your money'.

He took a knife, between 8 and 9 inches long, from his hoodie pocket.

The woman stood back in shock, Gda Ryan continued. She went for the panic button but the man told her not to push it.

She put cash from the till on the counter. Some of the money fell on her side. She picked up the notes and took the opportunity to push the panic button.

The man asked for a bag. She took out a plastic carrier bag which he put the cash into. He then said he was not going to hurt her, before leaving with €1,300 and going out of sight behind the Beacon medical centre.

He had left a block of wood to wedge the door open.

She didn't know his name, but he was a local and had a Drogheda accent.

Judge Petria McDonnell heard the victim went to her mother's house and did a Facebook search. She spotted a person she believed to be the robber, saved the image and emailed it to gardaí. She was traumatised by what occurred and no longer works there.

In a victim impact statement, she explained her life has changed as a result. Richard Gallagher was a regular before and she was always pleasant and nice to him.

CCTV footage picked up a small silver/blue hatchback car, which was registered to Margaret Gallagher, the accused's mother.

Gardaí searched his home at 152 Knockbrack Downs, and under the stairs in a pillow case found clothes matching those worn by the man on CCTV. A matching knife was discovered in the kitchen. Richard Gallagher was arrested and interviewed at Ashbourne garda station on 14 February, 2017.

He told investigators he was driving for the person who carried out the robbery. This individual changed clothes in his house.

He added they were missing a knife from the house before the robbery. The defendant indicated he was stuck for money himself, but got no money from this.

The defendant added he might have handled the clothing but didn't wear it for the robbery.

When shown CCTV footage, he repeated he was the driver. He identified the vehicle as his mother's car.

Gallagher has five previous convictions including a suspended nine-month sentence for possession of drugs for sale or supply.

Gda Ryan agreed with counsel that the defendant had drugs debts. He received a warning as a result of which this offence was carried out.

A father of one, he is the second of five children.

He had a significant cannabis problem, but had moved to Achill Island, where is mother is from, to get away from the people he had been associating with. He works there as a plasterer.

Counsel said Gallagher had successfully completed a residential drugs course. His last conviction was in 2010.

He understands the impact on his victim who suffered a terrifying ordeal.

A probation report was before the court, and Judge McDonnell noted the defendant had expressed remorse, co-operated and took steps to remove himself and relocated to Achill.

She continued she wouldn't take him away from his work to do community service.

A two-year sentence, suspended for two years, was imposed. Gallagher was ordered to engage with the probation service in Achill for 12 months.

Drogheda Independent