A three-man gang of burglars have been sentenced to a total of 14 and a half years in prison after a carrying out a terrifying seven-and-a-half hour crime spree targeting homes in rural Co Limerick, writes David Raleigh.
Gardaí tracked the gang down after the three men called to a house looking for a spanner to fix a flat tyre on a car they had earlier stolen to take them on their criminal “odyssey".
At Limerick Circuit Court, James O'Shea, 27, of Anthony's Lodge, Roo West, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare; Jeffrey Kelly, aged 26, Willow Grove, Old Cork Road, Limerick and 26-year-old Tony Kelly of O'Malley Park, Southill, Limerick all pleaded guilty to charges involving theft, burglary, criminal damage and the illegal taking of a car.
The offences took place through the night of May 26, 2015 and into the early hours of May 27.
All three members of the gang were on bail for other offences at the time.
One couple, from Annacotty, who had €10,000 worth of property taken from their home as they slept, told the court the break-in had "traumatised" them.
As well as stealing jewellery, alcohol, and over €800 in cash, the gang made off with wedding presents. The only item recovered from the burglary was a bottle of rum.
In a victim impact statement previously read to the court, the couple said since the raid on their home, they lived in fear they would be robbed again.
The woman said she refuses to stay alone in the house, if her husband is ever away.
After the criminal trio were confronted by the woman's husband, they drove to a house at Crecora, Co Limerick and threatened a female occupant, telling her: "If ye call the guards ye will be lucky to have ye're house standing tonight."
John O'Sullivan, prosecuting, said the "odyssey of crime" began when the gang stole a red coloured Seat car from outside a house at Sarsfield Court, Limerick city. The gang also burgled the owner's house stealing a laptop and other items.
The gang swept across the Limerick countryside targeting houses in Anacotty, Croom, Crecora and Patrickswell.
The crime spree ended near Croom around 8am when they were pursued by Garda Alison Carroll and Garda Catherine Mulchay before they were cornered in a farmer's cattle yard by Det. Garda Paul Crowley and Det. Garda John Keane.
Gardaí, who were on the lookout for the stolen car, had responded to a report of three suspicious looking men calling at a house looking for help to fix a flat tyre.
The court heard all three accused had previous convictions for theft, burglary, arson, public order.
After their arrest for the burglaries the gang could not be interviewed by detectives because they were so intoxicated.
Judge Tom O'Donnell remarked Tony Kelly had "serious drug and alcohol issues", and that if didn't "clean up his act, he will kill himself through avenues if drugs and alcohol".
He sentenced O'Shea, who the court heard "comes from a decent family", to four years in prison. Jeffrey Kelly was also sentenced to four years.
Tony Kelly, who also pleaded guilty to separate charges of robbery and attempted robbery of two students, was sentenced to eight years with the final 18 months suspended.
Judge O'Donnell said the men had gone on "an appalling expedition".
"It smacks of the Wild West," the judge said.