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'agitated and insane' Claw-hammer wielding burglar described as ‘crazed vigilante’ jailed for five years

Taghmon man pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and production of a number weapons including claw hammers and a vodka bottle

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Wexford Courthouse.

Wexford Courthouse.

Wexford Courthouse.

Five years in prison were handed down to a 35-year-old Taghmon man portrayed by his own counsel in Wexford Circuit Court as a crazed vigilante.

Tristram Dunne, with an address at Monastery Avenue in Taghmon, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and production of a series of weapons which included claw-hammers and a vodka bottle.

The series of offences considered by Judge James McCourt extended over two-and-a-half years, starting on the night of October 4 in 2018 when mechanic Stephen Quigley was at home in his apartment at Ard Munna.

As he dozed in front of the television, he woke to discover two uninvited intruders in the flat, standing over him and threatening him with knives taken from his kitchen.

Described later by their victim as agitated and insane, they took his hand and put it on the table, stabbing the table between his fingers before kicking and boxing him around the head for several minutes.

On their way out, they took Quigley’s mobile phone, along with his driving licence, and they also damaged his Opel Astra car which was parked outside.

The injured party attended Wexford General Hospital but received no follow-up treatment.

His victim impact statement was read into the court record by Detective Garda Pat O’Brien, charting how he was left requiring drugs to treat depression and anxiety.

He also reported experiencing blackouts, nightmares, dizziness and memory issues in the wake of the incident.

Quigley, who recognised the defendant on the night, indicated that he had been unable to work since, reckoning that he had suffered financially to the tune of €70,000 in lost earnings.

‘My life has changed,’ wrote the injured party. ‘I got a bad beating that night.’

The second incident, investigated by Garda Brian Delaney, occurred two years later in the Ard Munna housing estate on the evening of October 12 last year.

Elizabeth and Martin Murphy were present along with a man called James Hartigan when Dunne arrived at the door with a glass vodka bottle making threats.

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He was intoxicated and aggressive, assaulting Hartigan, striking his head with the bottle.

When the door of the house was shut against him, he broke two windows and a window in Elizabeth Murphy’s parked vehicle.

He also threatened to burn down Martin Murphy’s property, apparently acting in the mistaken belief that a criminal (since deceased) was living there.

The accused was recognised by the people in the house and he was arrested shortly afterwards.

Gardaí found that he was too drunk to be processed at the barracks, so he was allowed to sleep it off before being interviewed.

He was back in trouble once more in April 14 of this year after he took a couple of claw hammers from the local hardware shop reportedly saying “no one is going to rob my post office”.

He arrived in the village post office where he told staff that the premises was due to be the target of an armed robbery, though he was not the one who was going to carry out the raid.

Gardaí were alerted and Detective Brian Cummins arrived in Taghmon to find Dunne in the middle of the Ross Road.

He was screaming and swinging the hammers as he approached the patrol car.

The detective retreated but kept the accused under observation, noting that he stopped at the home of Stephen Quigley where damage was done to a Peugeot car that Quigley had for sale.

The would-be vigilante made off into a field but turned up the following morning with his father at the barracks in Wexford to be arrested.

When interviewed, he said he had been drinking and that he had no recollection of what had occurred.

The court learned that the defendant had been on bail at the time and was due to face 20 matters in the District Court.

His barrister stated that Dunne, one of a family of eleven children, had an extremely difficult upbringing and suffered violence at an early age.

His schooling did not extend beyond the age of 12 and he had significant addiction issues.

Seeking an explanation for what happened, it seemed to counsel that his client was motivated by a crazed sense of vigilantism.

The judge expressed sympathy for Quigley, telling the man in the dock that to inflict horrors on his victim once was bad but to do it again several years later was appalling in the extreme.

Tristram Dunne was sentenced to five years imprisonment for aggravated burglary, production of a knife, making threats and criminal damage, with a further three-and-a-half years suspended.

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