Two walk free after robbery that terrified elderly man into 30-mile cycle to nursing home

Noel Garry, Shane Donnellan and Joseph Lernihan.

By Gordon Deegan

Two men today walked free from court after receiving suspended jail terms for their robbery of a 68-year-old man who abandoned his west Clare home after being terrorised there by robbers.

At Ennis Circuit Court, the third man before the court for the offence of robbing Michael McMahon at his remote home, 20-year-old Noel Garry of Tullycrine, Childish was jailed for five years.

After the robbery, a terrified Michael McMahon cycled for eight hours and 30 miles through the night to check himself into a nursing home and he remains in nursing care today.

Evidence was heard in the case in January and today, Judge Carroll Moran gave three suspended jail terms to Joseph Lernihan (aged 21) of Finnanon Park, Mullagh for robbing Mr McMahon at Drumellihy West, Cree on February 21 and 25, 2012 and to Shane Donnellan (aged 20), Clohanbeg, Cree, Kilrush for the robbery of Mr McMahon on February 25, 2012.

Judge Moran imposed a three-year jail term on Mr Garry for the robbery of Mr McMahon and imposed a consecutive jail term for three years on Mr Garry concerning a separate robbery of a rural isolated home committed in September 2012.

Judge Moran said that the second three-year term was consecutive as Mr Garry was on bail for the McMahon offence at the time.

Judge Moran suspended the final year of the second three-year term.

Mr McMahon remains in nursing home care today after fleeing his home following two nights of being put in "absolute fear" by robbers almost two years ago with the robbers making threats on the second occasion that they were going to return to rob him for a third time - this time for €50,000.

Outlining the facts in court last January Det Garda Donal Corkery said that on the second occasion, the robbers pushed the rung of a gate through a broken window, pretending that it was a gun, and threatened to shoot Mr McMahon.

Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon was living alone in the rural, remote location two miles from the village of Cooraclare without any electricity or running water.

However, Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon had cash in his home from an inheritance he received from America.

Det Corkery said that over the two nights, around €7,000 in cash was robbed from Mr McMahon.

In evidence, Det Corkery said that at 10pm on February 21, Mr McMahon heard banging outside his home and could see three torches in the darkness outside.

Det Corkery said that on this occasion, three windows of Mr McMahon’s home were broken and Mr McMahon could see three people outside, all wearing hoodies.

Det Corkery said that the three demanded €500 and a frightened Mr McMahon told them through a broken window that he would give them the money.

State counsel, Stephen Coughlan BL said that the robbers were not happy with €500 “and they threatened to come into the house and search the house if he didn’t give them more”.

Mr Coughlan said that Mr McMahon “in a state of absolute fear” handed the robbers three carrot jars containing roughly €4,000 in cash.

Det Corkery said: “One jar contained €500. They demanded more, he handed out a second jar containing roughly €1,000. They kept demanding more money and he handed out a third jar with the three jars roughly containing a little more than €4,000. That was all the money he had in the house.”

Det Corkery said that one of the robbers told Mr McMahon “No gardaí. We won’t be back. We won’t get mad”.

Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon on the night “felt weak and was fearful from the whole ordeal, but at the time did not make any complaint to the Gardaí”.

Det Corkery said that the following day, Mr McMahon went to the AIB in Kilrush to withdraw €3,000 from his bank account and replaced the windows by placing blocks and turf in the gaps made.

He said: “Mr McMahon attended the bank two or three times a year and would withdraw roughly €3,000 and he would live on that for three to five months."

Four nights later on February 25, robbers returned and Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon saw that blocks were being removed from one of his broken windows and that a pipe was being pointed into the house.

Det Corkery said that it was a rung of a gate two to three foot in length and made to resemble a gun.

Mr Coughlan said: “He was told that it was a gun and if he tried to leave the room he would be shot.”

Mr Coughlan said that Mr McMahon heard one of the robbers say: 'You fuckin’ bastard. You must have a gun and I’ll shoot you if you go into the other room.'

The counsel said: “Mr McMahon opened the door and saw were four people outside. One of these brought Mr McMahon out to the rear of the house while the others searched the house.

Det Corkery said that the robbers requested Mr McMahon’s assistance to locate money in the house as they had found only a small amount in a jar.

He said that Mr McMahon retrieved the remainder of the money - around €3,000 - and gave it to the robbers. Mr Coughlan said: “They demanded and got Mr McMahon’s bank books and they told Mr McMahon to go to the bank the following Monday and withdraw €50,000 and they would be back for that.”

Det Corkery said that the robbers made the demand “after seeing a substantial sum of money on the bank books”.

Mr Coughlan said that the robbers “told him that if he contacted the Gardaí, they would come back and burn his house down”.

Det Corkery said: “Mr McMahon told the persons there that he wouldn’t be able to remain at his home because of their action and later at 1am that night, he gathered up his belongings and cycled from his address to St Joseph’s nursing home."

Det Corkery said that on arriving at St Joseph’s, Mr McMahon also made a complaint to the Gardaí. Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon remained at St Joseph’s for two days before being transferred to St Theresa’s nursing home in Kilrush where he remains today.

Det Corkery said that gardaí mounted a surveillance operation outside Mr McMahon’s home the following Monday lying in wait for the robbers, but they never showed.

Det Corkery said that gardaí have updated Mr McMahon on numerous occasions relating to the investigation. He said: “Mr McMahon is not a frail man. He is in good health, but he is fearful and has informed us that he will never return home again.”

Det Corkery said that Mr McMahon has declined the option of providing a victim impact statement to court.

The detective said that some of the proceeds from the robbery were spent by Mr Lernihan paying €1,000 for a Passat car in Donegal and gardaí have since seized the car.

Det Corkery said that father of one Mr Lernihan has no previous convictions while Mr Donnellan works with his father and also has no previous convictions.

Det Corkery said that Mr Garry has five previous convictions including two for burglary, one for theft and one for criminal damage.

The detective said that the robbers were tipped off by a juvenile who was convinced that Mr McMahon was wealthy and lived by himself.

Det Corkery said that Shane Donnellan and Joseph Lernihan are at the lower end of involvement in the crime with Mr Garry higher up.

The detective said that the prime mover in the crime is not before the courts as there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him because he did not make admissions to Gardaí.

Local county councillor Bill Chambers said: "There was a sense of revulsion that a decent, honest, good-living man…was driven out of his home."

He said he imagined Michael would have been "really traumatised...He had an awfully lonely road to go, all the way to Ennis."

He said Michael is a very quiet man, whose main interests were working and sport.

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