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Mob crackdown Drogheda feud criminal jailed for three years over role in horrific abduction and torture

In a victim impact statement Rochford’s grandmother Mary said her grandson, who subsequently died in non-suspicious circumstances in 2019, never really got over the attack

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Dean Thornton

Dean Thornton

Dean Thornton

A judge has said there is no place for mob rule in Drogheda as he jailed a gang member who was involved in the abduction and gruesome torture of a man in the town in 2018.

Armed gardai likely saved Aaron Rochford’s life when they stormed a house in the Moneymore estate in the Louth town November 2018 and found him stripped naked and heavily bleeding in a bath after being stabbed, sliced and beaten.

They subsequently arrested a number men in a neighbouring property including Dean Thornton (23) Beechwood Drive, Marley's Lane who was today sentenced to three years behind bars after pleading guilty to his involvement in the incident linked to the Drogheda feud.

“Mob rule and mob law has no place in Drogheda or anywhere else in this country,” Judge Martin Nolan said as he handed down a three year sentence for assault today.

Convicted drug dealer Thornton has links to the anti-Maguire faction of the feud but in a letter of apology handed in at his sentencing hearing in Dublin District Court today Thornton claimed he has turned his back on a life of crime and will go straight when he gets out of jail.

In a victim impact statement Rochford’s grandmother Mary said her grandson, who subsequently died in non-suspicious circumstances in 2019, never really got over the attack and went off the rails on drugs afterwards.

On the day of the incident Rochford had been abducted by the anti-Maguire faction after a car was driven into the area with gas cylinders in it and subsequently set alight.

Rochford was abducted and put in a VW car before being taken to a house in Moneymore.

CCTV footage showed Thornton punch Rochford in the face as he brought him into the property.

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Victim Aaron Rochford

Victim Aaron Rochford

Victim Aaron Rochford

When inside the house he was stripped naked and viciously tortured by the gang. He was sliced multiple times with a knife and brutally beaten leaving him with multiple injuries including a broken jaw.

Gardai had received information Rochford was being held the in house and the Armed Support Unit were brought in to breach the property.

The court heard that when they entered the property they found Rochford “unclothed, covered in blood and in a state of shock”.

Gardai found the washing machine was on hadn’t entered a cycle phase. Inside the machine they found black Nike tracksuit bottoms belonging to Dean Thornton which were covered in Rochford’s blood.

They also found a hard-drive in a bucket of water. The hard drive was from the CCTV system on the home and gardai were able to recover footage from it showing the gang bringing Rochford into the house.

By the time gardai had breached the property the abduction gang were in a neighbouring home.

They eventually came out with their hands up after gardai surrounded the second property.

Superintendent Andrew Watters told the court that Thornton was initially uncooperative with gardai when arrested.

“He was interviewed on several occasions and declined to answer any questions.”

However, his DNA and Rochford’s blood were found on the tracksuit bottoms discovered in the washing machine and the CCTV evidence showed him entering the property.

“He was seen outside the home when Aaron Rochford was taken from the VW and he punched Aaron in the head.”

Gardai also recovered weapons including knives and crossbow from the house.

Thornton subsequently pleaded guilty to his involvement.

In her victim impact statement Aaron’s grandmother Mary who he lived with for many years described him as a “lovable rogue”.

She said she was distraught when she went to visit Aaron in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital after he was rescued by gardai.

“When I got to the hospital and saw Aaron I thought my heart stopped beating. I was so upset at what he looked like.

“There were bruises, cuts, blood; he could barely talk; there were wires around his neck. It was an awful sight.”

She said Aaron was transferred to St James Hospital in Dublin as there were fears he would be attacked again

She said she was terrified at that time that the gang would come after her family.

“At this time I was worried about the rest of the family. I got CCTV cameras in the house and had so much fear for my family. Even now I see strange cars in my estate and I worry are they here for me and my family.”

She said Aaron spent a week in hospital and suffered headaches after the attack but didn’t return for further treatment.

“He went off the rails on drugs.”

She said she didn’t think Aaron had ever emotionally recovered from the attack and that he had changed from being the “happy go-lucky” lad he was before.

He died in September 2019 and the court heard while drugs were not the direct cause of his death heroin was found in his system.

Thornton wrote a letter of apology which was handed up in court today.

His defence counsel said Thornton was from a broken home, exposed to criminality from a young age and “led down the wrong path”.

“He promises when this is over he’s leave the life of crime behind. He apologises to anyone affected. He knows what he did was wrong. He sincerely apologises to the family. He can’t take back what he done and his actions are an embarrassment to him and his family.”

The court heard he was a father to a three-year-old child and was involved in a number of courses in prison.

Judge Nolan said the maximum sentence was five years but there were a number of mitigating circumstances including his guilty plea and sentenced him to three years.

The anti-Maguire faction of the feud have been involved in numerous violent incidents including gun attacks and murder including the vicious killing and dismemberment of a teenager last year.

They had links to violent Dublin hitman Robbie Lawlor who was shot dead in Belfast last year.

Two leading members of the anti-Maguire faction have been on the run since last year and are wanted by gardai.

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