trial evidence | 

Hijacked woman told by masked raiders she would be found and killed if she called gardaí - court told

Ordeal lasted between 20 and 25 minutes

Trevor Byrne

Paul Neilan

A woman has told the Special Criminal Court of how raiders hijacked her car at gunpoint, demanded proof of her address and threatened to find and kill her if she reported the ordeal to gardaí.

Ms Helen Leigh also told the non-jury court that the men asked her if she had children, which she took to be a threat.

She was giving evidence in the trial of a man accused of a number of offences arising from an armed robbery of a BoyleSports in Applewood Village in Swords.

Trevor Byrne (41) of Cappagh Road, Finglas West, is before the court, after the High Court made an order in September transferring his trial from the Circuit Criminal Court to the three-judge Special Criminal Court.

Ms Leigh told Mr Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, that she was driving home from work when she stopped at the Eurospar at Applewood Village in Swords at around 6.20pm on March 19, 2010.

After returning to her car and intending to go home, Ms Leigh said that a man "with his face covered" jumped out in front of the car and shouted "stop!" while pointing a gun at her.

Ms Leigh said that she told the man, who she said was wearing what appeared to be a balaclava, dark clothing and brandishing a "small, silver gun", to "take the car" and began to exit the driver's seat.

However, Ms Leigh was forced back at gunpoint and told to sit in the passenger seat as the male got into the driver's seat.

The witness said that another masked man then appeared, carrying a sports bag, and got into the back passenger seat, directly behind Ms Leigh.

The driver passed his gun back to the second male and asked "which way?", before making a u-turn and passing by the BoyleSports on the way back.

Ms Leigh said that the car made it to a main road in "probably two or three minutes but it felt like a lifetime".

The driver then pulled up a portion of his face-covering and told Ms Leigh to look out her window and not at him.

The witness said she was repeatedly asking to be let out but was told "not yet".

The two men asked Ms Leigh for money and she passed back her wallet to the rear passenger only to be told that there was nothing in it with her name and address on it.

The two men demanded something that had the witness' name and address on it and Ms Leigh found a business letter and gave it to them.

The male in the back seat ripped a portion of the letter containing Ms Leigh's address and handed back the remainder.

"They wanted to know where I lived and said that if I reported this to the gardaí that they would find me and kill me," Ms Leigh told Mr Costelloe.

The witness said that she thought the two men to have Dublin accents and to be roughly in their late twenties.

"I was very aware that the man in the back seat had a gun, either in his hand or on the floor - I was very, very frightened." she said.

Ms Leigh said that she was frightened about reporting the matter to gardaí for fear that "they would do me harm in my own home".

"They asked me if I had children and I told them that I didn't," she said and confirmed to Mr Costelloe that she was of the belief that she was being threatened.

Ms Leigh said that the back-seat passenger referred to the driver with a name or nickname "beginning with T".

The witness said that the driver began patting his pockets and said "I can't believe it", saying that he thought he had dropped his phone.

Ms Leigh said that the sports bag was checked for the phone but that she did not see either male find it.

The court has heard that a phone with 15 missed calls on it was found at the scene in the bookies.

Ms Leigh said that the car was travelling at speed and passed Knocksedan housing estate and then onto smaller "country" roads.

At around the Kilshane Cross area, Ms Leigh again asked to be let out because she knew where she was but was "terrified" that if the car went further she would not know where she was.

The car then travelled for "three, or four minutes" down a dirt track and Ms Leigh was finally told to get out and the two males drove away.

Ms Leigh could not use her phone as one of the men had taken her battery but she did find her way to a house where a man there then called the gardaí.

The witness said that the entire ordeal lasted between 20 and 25 minutes.

In 2011, Mr Byrne was charged with five offences relating to an armed robbery at BoyleSports in Swords the previous year, during Cheltenham Race Week on Gold Cup day.

He is accused of robbing the shop manager Mr James Robertson of €1,490 at BoyleSports, Applewood Village, on March 19, 2010, and of possession of a firearm with intent to commit robbery on the same occasion.

He is also charged with seizing a vehicle by threat of force and falsely imprisoning Ms Leigh at Thornleigh Avenue, to the rear of the bookies, on the same day.

Mr Byrne is further charged with threatening to kill her at an unknown location between Thornleigh Avenue and Kilshane Cross in Co Dublin, that day. The accused has denied all of the charges.

Mr Byrne is represented by Mr John D Fitzgerald SC and the trial continues at the non-jury court before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath, Ms Justice Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin and Ms Justice Marie Keane.

The trial continues tomorrow and is expected to last up to two weeks.

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