Man pleads guilty to robbery at Bank of Ireland branch

A father-of-five will be sentenced later for his part in a robbery in which a Dublin bank manager’s husband and two small children were held captive in a van.

Michael Mc Guirk (aged 45) of Captain’s Road, Crumlin, pleaded guilty to the robbery at Bank of Ireland in Inchicore on October 23, 2009 in which more than €200,000 was taken.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that on that night, the bank’s branch officer, Nicola Hall, and two children, aged six and three, were asleep in bed.

Her husband John Jones, a taxi driver and former member of the defence forces, was out working and arrived home to his house in Lucan at 1am.

He was approached by three masked men at his front door and a gun was put to his face.

He was told to turn off the alarm by the men who had Dublin accents and were wearing balaclavas and surgical gloves.

Detective Garda Padraig Jennings told Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting, Ms Hall was woken up by a man leaning across the bed holding a hand over her mouth.

Cable ties were put on Mr Jones’s arms and legs and his mouth was taped but the court heard he was able to remove that tape.

The court also heard the couple were separated from each other and were photographed with a gun put to their heads.

One of the children got out of bed and was asking who the men were but the couple successfully convinced them it was a game. That pretence has been maintained until this day.

Quilts and pillows were put into the van and Mr Jones was lifted into the van along with the two children.

A fourth man was in the van, which had been stolen earlier, and it was driven away at 6.18am. Mr Jones’s car was also driven away.

Meanwhile Ms Hall was given instructions on what to do that morning and told to continue on as if it was a normal day.

She said she left at 8.20am and drove to her bank branch where she tried to behave as normal until the bank vault’s time lock came off at 11.30am.

Ms Hall had to tell the assistant manager what was going on because both of them were required to open the vault.

The court heard she put €210,000, Stg£6,000 (€6,995), USD$10,500 (€7,739) and a number of other foreign currencies to the value of EUR18,000 in a bag.

After Ms Hall left the bank her phone rang and questions were asked of her but she was told her family were safe. She was told to drive her jeep to a location and leave it there with the keys in the ignition.

Mr Jones and his two children were held in the back of the van for five hours. As soon as the driver left, his son got through a small gap in the front of the van and alerted a passer-by.

The van was left at a garage in Rathdangan, Co. Kildare and Mr Jones’s own car was also found nearby.

A 999 call was received from an anonymous caller at 1pm to say a man and two children were tied up in a van.

This call was traced back to a phone box in Templeogue in Dublin which was forensically examined and fingerprints taken. The court heard the phone box had not been used in a number of hours.

McGuirk was stopped three miles from the phone box in a routine garda stop by Garda Jean O’Brien.

He was later arrested on May 10, 2010 at Captain’s Road, Crumlin and fingerprints were taken.

His fingerprints matched those found on the phone box and a partial DNA profile was found on the handbrake of the van.

McGuirk was interviewed 22 times over a five-day period and provided no explanation for his fingerprints being found on the phone box. Nobody else has been charged in relation to the incident.

McGuirk has 31 previous convictions including violent disorder, firearms and road traffic offences.

In a victim impact statement read to the court on behalf of Ms Hall, she said she was threatened that her children would be mutilated and her husband shot.

“If there was any idea of hell, this would be it,” she said.

She said she eventually returned to work after six months but no longer works at that branch of the bank.

Mr Jones said he and his children were put into the back of a van in freezing, dirty conditions. He said his children had to go to the toilet in the back of a van as they were not given the dignity to go outside.

Under cross-examination Det Gda Jennings agreed with Sean Gillane SC, defending, that his client was “the only person to answer for this”.

Mr Gillane said his phone call was his only act of decency and asked the court to take account of his guilty plea.

He said his client was a roofer with five children, that his wife was not well and asked the court to have regard to his age.

Mr Gillane added McGuirk is ashamed of his involvement and is very sorry for it.

Judge Desmond Hogan will sentence McGuirk on March 1.

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