Junkie thug threatened to set credit union staff on fire during violent raid

Gary Gregg in 2008
Gary Gregg in 2008

A heroin addict who robbed his local credit union by threatening to set staff on fire has been jailed for five years.

Gary Gregg (28) grabbed a supervisor by the neck and told her he was pouring fuel over her to set her on fire.

The woman tasted what she believed was either perfume or petrol in her mouth when Gregg poured liquid out of a canister over the top of her head.

He held a lighter in his hand and shouted “Give me the money. I've a lighter here and fuel and I am going to set you on fire”.

Gregg of Ashlawn Park, Ballybrack, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery and making a threat to kill at Core Credit Union, Ballybrack on January 16, 2016.

He was on bail at the time and has 87 previous convictions including 13 for robbery.

Garda Declan Hartley told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting, that the woman recognised Gregg immediately, even though he was wearing a balaclava.

She knew him since he was a baby and was acquainted with his family and grandparents. He had applied for a loan in the credit union six months previously and had been unsuccessful.

She said she couldn't believe it when she felt the liquid on her head. She knew Gregg was desperate for money and that he was prepared to use her as a tool to get it. She said she knew she had to get away from him and was absolutely terrified.

The robbery lasted 41 seconds during which time Gregg also threw fluid over the counter and ordered two other staff members to hand over cash before robbing €12, 241.

The supervisor who he had grabbed and prevented from getting into a back office, managed to duck under him and escape through the front door to raise the alarm.

A woman who had been in the credit union with her two young children, ran out of the building as soon as Gregg started threatening staff.

Judge Melanie Greally said this was an extremely frightening experience. The women said they were terrified during the robbery.

She suspended the last two years of a seven year sentence on condition that he engage with the Probation Service on victim focused work and addiction treatment services.

Seoirse Ó Dúlaing BL, defending, told Judge Greally that his client wished to apologise to the staff in the credit union for the terrifying ordeal.

He said when his client was 12 years old, his biological father approached him in a take-away and told him that his mother had committed suicide while serving a prison sentence.

Gregg, who had been brought up by his grandparents had never been told how his mother died and had not known his father before this.

He was unable to deal with the situation and resorted to taking drugs before he began committing crime.

Gregg was arrested shortly afterwards following the victim's identification of him and after gardaí viewed various CCTV footage from the area. He denied any involvement in the robbery.

Gda Hartley agreed with Ms Brennan that Gregg had been in custody awaiting sentence but was granted bail late last year, despite “strenuous garda objections”, to allow him attend for drug treatment.

It transpired that Gregg didn't have the residential place he claimed he had arranged and he was charged with seven further offences before he was remanded in custody again.

The supervisor stated in her victim impact statement that she was constantly afraid and locked herself into her house and was in fear when someone knocked on her door. She had to take some time off work.

She is constantly checking the security cameras and will not go into the public area during working hours. She finds it difficult to sleep and continues to have nightmares.

Victim impact reports from the other two staff members also spoke of how they believed Gregg had petrol and were terrified they would be injured.

One woman has since transferred to a different branch of the credit union as she had also been at work during a previous robbery in Ballybrack.

The women spoke of how they were terrified for their colleague and handed over all the cash in their till drawers immediately.

Gda Hartley said another woman, who had previously given Gregg a loan through her work, later told gardaí that she had met him outside the credit union minutes before the robbery.

She chatted with him and he had directed her out of her parking space as she was pulled in between two cars.

Gda Hartley said that neither the cash nor the canister of fluid were ever recovered. The gardaí had taken the victim's cardigan for forensic testing but it was not properly preserved in a nylon evidence bag and the liquid that had been on it evaporated.

The garda said there was therefore no forensic evidence to confirm if Gregg had lighter fuel with him, as he had claimed, during the robbery.