Michael McDonagh pointed a firearm – which was never recovered – at several terrified shop workers, including a pregnant woman, in three stores in the Dublin 8 area in January this year, making off with a total of €2200 and a large quantity of cigarettes and tobacco.
On one occasion, the staff and customers fled to a stock room and watched on CCTV as McDonagh ransacked the cigarette stand, the court heard.
It remains unclear if the gun he used was a real or imitation firearm, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
McDonagh was arrested after gardaí noticed he was cycling a distinctive bike, which they traced to his home address using CCTV footage taken from around the city.
The 23-year-old, with an address at Emmet Crescent, Inchicore, Dublin, pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery in Dublin on January 10 and 11 this year. He has seven previous convictions, including burglary, assault and possession of knives.
Handing down sentence, Judge Melanie Greally said McDonagh had armed himself with the accoutrements necessary for a robbery, including a balaclava, gloves and a firearm, which many of his victims believed was real.
“It was used on each occasion to threaten members of staff by pointing it towards them,” the judge said.
She handed down a sentence of five-and-a-half years before adjourning the case to March next year to deal with the issue of post-release supervision.
Detective Garda William Wright told John Moher BL, prosecuting, that over the course of two days, McDonagh entered an Applegreen, a Centra and a Eurospar in Dublin 8 while armed with the weapon and started threatening staff.
He made off with €700 from one store and €1500 from another shop. In the third, he was unable to get access to the tills after the store manager told his staff and customers to run into the stockroom. Instead, McDonagh ransacked the cigarettes and made off with a number of boxes.
On one occasion, McDonagh pointed his gun at a seven-month pregnant shop worker. When told she was pregnant, McDonagh told her “I won't go near you love.” But the woman was left in fear for her life and the life of her unborn baby, the court heard.
Gardaí arrested McDonagh shortly after the final robbery after tracking down CCTV footage of him on his distinctive bike, which was black with white handles. A number of cigarette boxes were retrieved from his house, along with the coat and balaclava he was wearing during the robberies. The firearm was never recovered.
Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, said McDonagh had a tragic family background, including the deaths of two of his three siblings when he was young. His brother died in a road traffic accident and one of his sisters died as a result of drugs-related incident.
He started abusing drugs at the age of 14 and has undiagnosed mental health issues, the court heard.
Mr Le Vert said McDonagh is doing well in custody and is now drug and alcohol-free. He has undertaken a number of courses and is making good progress, the court heard.
Judge Greally backdated the sentence to January, when McDonagh went into custody.