By Conor Kane
The “terrified screams” of children who saw their dad being assaulted during an aggravated burglary at the family’s home could be heard on a 999 call to gardaí made during the incident, a court has heard.
Seven men in their early 20s from north Dublin have pleaded guilty to the offence which involved them entering as trespassers the property of Emma and Mark Corcoran and their three young daughters while armed with a shotgun, machete and handgun.
A sentencing hearing at Clonmel Circuit Court was told today that the Corcorans were in fear of their lives and the lives of their children, aged eight, six and two at the time, during the incident which happened early in the morning of November 21 of 2013 at their home in Burnchurch, outside Killenaule in Co Tipperary.
The seven who have admitted the offence are John Joyce (aged 21) of Lentisk Lawn, The Donaghies, Donaghmede, Dublin; Dean Byrne (aged 22) of Cabra Park, Dublin 7; Patrick Gately (aged 28) of Primrose Grove, Darndale, Dublin 17; Thomas Flynn (aged 21) of Moatview Avenue, Coolock, Dublin 17; Patrick Joyce (aged 23) of Beaumont Hall, Beaumont Woods, Dublin 9; Michael McDonagh (aged 23) of Tara Lawns, Belcamp Lane, Coolock, Dublin 17 and Donal O’Hara (aged 22) from Glin Park, Coolock, Dublin 17.
They travelled in convoy from Dublin to Tipperary, stealing a car in Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny on the way, on the night of November 20/21 in 2013 and were apprehended by gardaí at two locations on the motorway system as they tried to make their getaway back to Dublin.
Detective Sergeant James White told the court this morning that Mark Corcoran, who was sleeping in a back bedroom as he had an early start the next morning and didn’t want to wake the rest of the family, was awoken by a man in a black balaclava, “brandishing a large knife” and another man who had a black handgun.
They shouted “where is the safe” and “where is the money” but there was never any safe in the house.
Mark Corcoran was led into the living area of the house and struck in the face with the butt of a gun.
He sustained a fractured eye socket and later had to have four separate surgeries and still has breathing problems as a result. At the time, he realised his eldest daughter was trying to come into the sitting room but his hands were tied behind his back with cable-ties and one of the raiders knelt on his back.
“The eldest two children were awake and in the hallway,” Sgt White said. “They had a clear view of what was going on. They could see what was happening to their father. They could hear the raiders making threats.”
Mr Corcoran “thought he was going to be shot,” the court heard. “He was in fear of his life.”
His wife Emma Corcoran was awoken by the sound of glass breaking and made a 999 call before leaving her phone under the bed with the call still active.
“The one thing that is most clear in the 999 recording was the terrified screams of the children,” Sgt White said.
At one point Emma Corcoran was "forcibly removed" from her bedroom and saw her husband being struck in the face.
She was also told “we’ll kill your f..king kids” by one of the raiders. “Emma Corcoran was without doubt in fear of her life and that of her three children.”
The Corcorans had a gym equipment-supply business at the time, which they since closed as a result of their ordeal, but there was no safe in the house.
The raiders took about €1,300 in cash, which represented the previous day’s takings and petty cash, as well as some jewellery including Mrs Corcoran’s engagement ring which was never recovered, and items inherited from her late mother.
The hearing continues later this afternoon.