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Tourist's terror Italian teacher held up at gunpoint near the Guinness Storehouse says she'll return to Ireland

She said the same thing could have happened anywhere but the support she received afterwards in Ireland stood out.

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Silvia said she feels Ireland is a safe place

Silvia said she feels Ireland is a safe place

Silvia said she feels Ireland is a safe place

An Italian teacher held up at gunpoint at a popular Dublin tourist attraction has vowed to return to Ireland after one of the muggers was jailed this week.

Silvia Piantoni and her student were terrified when two men, one armed with a highly-realistic imitation firearm, targeted them outside the Guinness Storehouse in October 2019 - but this week she told the Sunday World that they will return to Ireland as soon as possible.

She said the same thing could have happened anywhere but the support she received afterwards in Ireland stood out.

Paul Heaney (37) was jailed for three years and nine months this week after he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery and attempted robbery at Long's Place on October 21, 2019.

The court hear Heaney, with an address at Michael Mallon House, Dublin 8, had 51 previous convictions.

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Another teacher came to the victims’ aid

Another teacher came to the victims’ aid

Another teacher came to the victims’ aid

His accomplice, Gareth Mallon (39), who was armed with the imitation firearm, is currently serving a four-year sentence for his involvement in the robbery. Silvia, who lives in Bergamo in Italy, could not travel to Ireland for the sentence hearing due to lockdown restrictions but told the Sunday World she was pleased with how it went.

"Unfortunately the situation in Italy is very worrying because of coronavirus. Our area has been particularly hit. We have been constantly informed about the evolution of the trial and we are very satisfied about the sentencing."

She added that she had been inundated with messages of support since the incident occurred.

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Accomplice Gareth Mallon was caught on camera pointing the fake gun

Accomplice Gareth Mallon was caught on camera pointing the fake gun

Accomplice Gareth Mallon was caught on camera pointing the fake gun

"Irish people have shown support and affection towards us. I have received lots of messages of esteem and encouragement in this year. We will come back as soon as possible for a tour of Ireland and we will take our students when the pandemic situation stops."

She said while the incident was terrifying, the way it was dealt with gave her confidence in the Irish justice system.

"It was, but we have really appreciated the reactions of Irish people and the efficiency of the police system. We will come back because we know that Ireland is a safe place. A similar event could happen everywhere but not everywhere we would have received the same support."

On the day of the incident Silvia and her students had visited the Guinness Storehouse.

A student at the back of the group was approached by Mallon who pointed a gun at his legs and said softly "money, money, money". Heaney was unarmed and had a tissue over his face.

The student handed over €60 and the man then pointed the gun at Silvia who screamed. Another teacher came to her aid and the two robbers ran off.

A woman nearby videoed the robbery on her mobile phone. Heaney presented himself to gardai few days later.

At his sentencing hearing this week Judge Elma Sheahan said she did not see a difference between Heaney and his co-accused. She said this was a "joint enterprise" with both playing similar roles.

Judge Sheahan noted the "troubling and challenging upbringing" Heaney experienced in his youth. She accepted he has made efforts to rehabilitate, remain free of illicit substances and reduce his methadone intake.

She sentenced Heaney to four-and-a-half years imprisonment, but suspended the final nine months on strict conditions.

Heaney told gardai he had not been involved in planning the robbery.

Fiona Murphy BL, defending Heaney, said he had expressed remorse and regretted his involvement in the offence. She said he had been on his way to get tablets when he bumped into the other individual involved.

She said he had a difficult early life and had fallen into a cycle of going into custody, doing well, being released and falling 'off the wagon', then reoffending in a life marred by drug use. She said he is clean of drugs at present and anxious to engage with rehabilitation.

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