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Man who witnessed Mountjoy killing jailed for smashing up and robbing jewellers

Jailed: William O'Neill
Jailed: William O'Neill

A man who witnessed the killing of Mountjoy inmate Gary Douch has been re-imprisoned for four years for smashing up a jewellers' shop with a sledgehammer and robbing over €15,000 worth of goods.

William O'Neill (27), of Durrow Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12, told gardaí he robbed the Balbriggan premises along with three others because he was “in a panic and needed a few bob”.

O'Neill pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbing Goldsmiths' Jewellers, Drogheda Street, Balbriggan, Co Dublin on May 10, 2013.

He further admitted to attempted robbery at Rush Newsagents, Keeper Road, Drimnagh, on November 10, 2013, and to possessing a Taser gun at St Mary's Road, Crumlin on March 30, 2014.

Garda Ian Farrell told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that jewellery store proprietor, Anthony Murphy, was upstairs when he heard a massive bang and immediately ran downstairs.

He saw a gang of four men with one running at him shouting and wielding a claw hammer and wearing a balaclava.

Mr Murphy retreated up the stairs and saw the man and O'Neill, who was armed with a sledgehammer, smashing up display cases and removing items of jewellery.

The gang left the shop in a Toyota Corolla and were tracked down by gardaí with the help of members of the public. They had stolen jewellery worth €15,357 and caused a total of €2,800 in damage to the shop.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Murphy said he had been concerned and upset for the safety of his children and his wife who were in the premises at the time.

O'Neill was arrested and identified himself on CCTV at the scene. He apologised to Mr Murphy and said the weapons had been simply to smash glass, not to hurt anybody.

O'Neill said the gang wanted to sell the jewellery and split the money four ways.

Detective Garda Eamon Rooney told the court that while O'Neill was on bail for robbing the jewellers, he tried to rob a newsagents armed with a wheel-brace and a blade.

O'Neill was arrested at the scene after a struggle with an employee during which both men were injured. He struck the staff member over the head with the wheel-brace and demanded money. He later apologised to gardaí and said he had owed a drug debt of €600 to his dealer.

While on bail for these two offences, O'Neill was caught in possession of a Taser gun, claiming it was for his own protection.

Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, said O'Neill had a difficult upbringing and served his first sentence aged 15 in Mountjoy.

He said O'Neill has suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder ever since he witnessed the killing of fellow inmate, Gary Douch (above), in his prison cell.

A letter from Fr Peter McVerry recommended urgent, intensive and regular counselling for O'Neill.

Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Martin Nolan noted that O'Neill had a serious criminal record with 68 previous convictions. They included drug offences, assaults, public order and criminal damage charges.