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vile threats Knife-wielding thug left his victims 'crippled with fear' following home invasions in Sligo

One young woman was pushed to the ground when John McDonagh (25) and his brother-in-law Kaelem Sweeney (18) burst their way into her home in Ballinode.


John McDonagh terrorised his victims.

John McDonagh terrorised his victims.

John McDonagh terrorised his victims.

This is the knife-wielding thug who threatened to kill his victims who have been left "crippled with fear" following two terrifying home invasions in Sligo.

One young woman was pushed to the ground when John McDonagh (25) and his brother-in-law Kaelem Sweeney (18) burst their way into her home in Ballinode, at 5am on January 18 last year.

After the pair's arrest, a man with links to the two men threatened to petrol bomb the victim's home if she went to court.

McDonagh, who lived in the same estate as his victims, also held a knife to the neck of a young man sleeping upstairs in the house during the incident, which lasted for 20 minutes and saw them make numerous threats to kill, steal cash and other items and smash up the house as well as a vehicle parked outside.

After leaving the house, McDonagh went into another house in the estate and stole €1,350 worth of electronics and threatened to kill and 18-year-old man who had just moved into the area.

McDonagh, with an address in Brookfield, and Sweeney, from Garavogue Villas, pleaded guilty at Sligo Circuit Court to aggravated burglary, threats to kill, criminal damage to the house and criminal damage to a car in relation to first incident, while McDonagh also pleaded guilty to unauthorised taking of a vehicle. They will be sentenced next month.

The terror unfolded from 5am on January 18 last year when McDonagh, who was armed with a long kitchen knife, and Sweeney, who was armed with a Stanley knife, forced their way into a house in Glencarrig.

A young woman saw them coming in and tried to close the door but they hit her with the door and she fell to the ground.

McDonagh then ran upstairs, where a man was sleeping and held a knife to his throat while demanding money. Sweeney was downstairs with a Stanley blade where two men were sleeping on couches.

The woman pleaded with the attackers to just take what they want and leave. McDonagh then told her to "shut up" and told her if she rang gardaí they would do to her what happened to "that lad in Cork" referring to a student who had been stabbed to death in Cork that week.

The woman said the two men then went mad with knives slashing mattresses, kicking holes in the walls and kicking doors.

They took cash from the man who had a knife held to his throat and pointed their weapons at the woman's and man's faces.

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They went back downstairs where McDonagh smashed the TV, took a kettle and took car key while Sweeney slashed the couches.

McDonagh then told all four victims not to go to gardaí or they'd be dead. He then got into a car belonging to one of the men in the house and drove it around at speed for a short period before getting out and smashing all the windows with a kettle and slashing the tyres with his knife.

Later, McDonagh walked into a house in Brookfield which was unlocked and told an 18-year-old man who had just moved in the previous week: "I'm taking your stuff".

He took a PlayStation, a 32-inch TV and a Nintendo Switch and told the teenager he would kill him if he called the gardaí.

The young woman and the 18-year-old man from the second house gave victim impact statements in court. The young woman said she had suffered increased depression and anxiety as a result.

"The fear I live each day is unexplainable. Nobody will realise what we went through. I have sleepless nights, missed work."

She said she was "crippled with fear" and the crime harmed her whole outlook on life.

A man with links to McDonagh and Sweeney contacted the woman two days after the incident and told her that her home would be petrol bombed if she attended a bail hearing in relation to the case.

Leon Sweeney, from Garavogue Villas, was sentenced to nine months in December over the threats.

In his victim impact statement the 18-year-old man said he is still in fear to leave his house, cannot get what happened out of his head and sleeps for just four hours a night.

McDonagh, who also has links to Kerry, has 34 convictions for offences including assault causing harm, theft and unauthorised taking of a vehicle. He was out on bail at the time of the home invasions.

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