Dublin hijacker jailed for violent armed robbery of Spar shop

Coakley pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery, possession of an imitation firearm and criminal damage
Coakley pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery, possession of an imitation firearm and criminal damage

A Dublin man who took part in a violent armed robbery during which the victim had a gun pointed at her head and was dragged along the ground has been jailed for six years.

Christopher Coakley (24) was one of two raiders who got in under the shutters of the Spar on Stiles Road in Clontarf before they “floored” the manager, and dragged her down the aisles demanding the shop keys from her.

The alarm was going off and they pointed an imitation gun to the woman's head to force her to give them the code. She instructed the men how to turn off the alarm but when they were unsuccessful she was held by the neck and pulled over to deactivate it herself.

The woman was continually held by the neck and dragged as the robbers demanded that she get them the safe.

Coakley of Belvedere Place, Dublin 1 pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery, possession of an imitation firearm and criminal damage at Spar on June 11, 2015.

He also admitted separate offences of assaulting gardaí Rory Heffernan and Mark Ronan, threatening to kill Anne Walsh and threat to damage Ms Walsh's property at St Michan's House, Greek Street on May 15, 2015.

He was sentenced to two and a half years and three and a half years for these crimes. These are concurrent to each other and to the six year term for the robbery.

Coakley is currently serving a sentence for hi-jacking and is due for release in July 2017. He has a total of 94 previous convictions including road traffic, theft, drug, assault, throwing a missile and public order offences.

A victim impact report before the court in relation to the incident at the Spar store said that the woman constantly thinks about the robbery and being dragged around with a gun put to her head.

Garda John Fitzgerald told the court that €4,500 worth of damage had been done to the shutters. The gun was later found to be an imitation.

Anne Marie Lawlor BL, defending, said her client was hugely influenced by his older brother Blaine, after their father left when Christopher was still an infant. She said Coakley got involved in criminality, as his brother did, from a very early age and developed an addiction to drugs.

She said Coakley has spent more than half his life in institutions after leaving school following national school.

Ms Lawlor said Coakley's mother, whom she said has “professional insights” through her own work in addiction studies, claimed that Coakley had finally turned a corner in attempting to deal with his addiction in “a real way”.

“An addiction that has blighted most of his life,” counsel said referring to her client's mother evidence that Coakley had had “huge problems with drink and drugs since he was 14 years old”.

Judge Martin Nolan said that during the “serious” robbery the victim was grappled with and dragged to the floor, while a gun which was “very realistic to her” was held to her head.

He accepted that Coakley had “ambitions” to deal with his drug addiction but said he previously had a chance to do so and didn't avail of that chance.

Garda Gerard Reddy told Martina Baxter BL, prosecuting, that during the incident last May , Coakley hid in Ms Walsh's home, in an effort to escape gardaí who had pulled over the car he had been a passenger in.

Coakley didn't know Ms Walsh but locked himself into her house while she was outside smoking a cigarette. The woman was very concerned for the safety of her five year old granddaughter who was in the house at the time and gardaí forced entry.

They found Coakley but he violently resisted arrest. He continued to fight off gardaí after he was handcuffed and later as he was being placed in a patrol van, he kicked Gda Ronan in the jaw after spitting at him.

He also bit Gda Heffernan but didn't break the skin through the garda's clothing.

During the struggle he continued to shout out at Ms Walsh that he was going to come back, “burn you out of your house”, made reference to her granddaughter and called Ms Walsh by her first name.

Judge Nolan said the common feature of the two crimes was the violence used by Coakley.

He described the threats to Ms Walsh as very frightening and acknowledged that Coakley was under the influence of “some kind of intoxicant”.

Garda Fitzgerald told Ms Baxter that nearby residents in Clontarf had spotted Coakley and his accomplice hanging around the area and were suspicious of them. Gardaí were alerted when one man saw the men go in under the shutters into the shop.

During the robbery the raiders heard people shouting into them that the gardaí were on their way. They forced their way through an alternative exit when they heard the sirens.

Gardaí were given descriptions of the culprits and were directed to a nearby estate which the men had been spotted running into. Coakley and his accomplice were ultimately found hiding in the attic of a house that had been under construction. Bags of coins and the shop keys were recovered from the attic.

Coakley was arrested but made no admissions in the subsequent garda interview. A large amount of cash was found on him.

By Sonya McLean