A garda car was rammed by the getaway driver for a crime gang who had just jimmied a safe off the wall of a house in Cork and sprayed the area with a fire extinguisher to prevent the gathering of DNA evidence.
The driver - Laurence Connors from Cherryfield Way halting site, Firhouse, Dublin - has been jailed for eight years by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Detective Superintendent Mick Comyns said that several bottles of domestic cleaning agents brought to clear the scene of DNA, along with burgling equipment such as a sledgehammer, screwdrivers and gloves showed the organisation and intent of the gang.
The Audi A3 used in the burglary in Cork was first spotted in suspicious circumstances in Portlaoise by an off-duty garda on September 12, 2019. Later that afternoon it was seen at Rochestown Road in Cork outside a house.
“Two men came out of the house carrying a safe and implements,” Det. Supt. Comyns said.
"Garda Joseph Halpin was not injured. Garda Dinah Birnbaum suffered minor soft tissue injuries from which she soon recovered. The repair of the patrol car cost €1,400."
Gardaí spotted the Audi A3 again near the Jack Lynch tunnel and it exited the South Ring road at the Rochestown, Carrigaline exit but then reversed and got stuck on an embankment. Three men in the car jumped out and attempted unsuccessfully to dislodge the car. They ran across a marshy area towards Mahon golf club.
Laurence O’Connor was found hiding there when gardaí carried out an extensive search which included the use of garda search dog handler, Garda Pat Harrington.
Seven cigarette butts with the defendant’s DNA were found in the ashtray of the car which had been stolen a fortnight earlier in the UK outside a house in Essex.
The stolen safe and a scattering of cash and jewellery was found in the car. Some stolen property was also found in a pillowcase on Mahon golf course. The total value of cash, jewellery, watches and other stolen property amounted to more than €46,000.
Defence barrister, Donal Daly, said the 28-year-old’s early plea of guilty saved a complex two-week trial which would have required a large a number of garda witnesses. Mr O’Sullivan said Connors, who had six theft-related convictions, was remorseful.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said, “This is a very serious matter – professional, determined and organised burglaries in stolen cars.
“The amount of damage done in tearing out the safe – jimmied out – the determination not just to take the safe but to deal with that (opening it) at their leisure. They were thwarted in that by the arrival of gardaí. They rammed that car and luckily there were no major injuries.
“This lad came fully equipped, not just for one burglary but for organised crime. It is at the higher end of the scale. And he was on bail at the time which is an aggravating factor.”
The judge imposed a total sentence of 10 years with the last two suspended. He disqualified him from driving for 10 years.
Laurence Connors said: “Thanks”, when the sentence was imposed.
Charges to which Connors pleaded guilty were, burglary at Eyrecourt, Rochestown, Cork, endangering the lives of two gardaí by his driving, possession of a safe and jewellery, stolen property possession of hammers, screwdrivers, cleaning sprays and gloves for use in the course of a burglary.