Boy saved sister from child snatcher

The exceptional bravery of a 10-year-old boy who clung to the window of a moving 4x4 to rescue his sister has been commended.

The boy’s actions were outlined during the sentencing hearing of Michael Martin, aged 36, of Shandon Court, Yellow Road, Waterford City. He pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of the 11-year-old girl following an incident at Cullohill, Co Laois on March 4.

Garda Anne Marie Deegan told how the 11-year-old girl and her twin brothers were playing at a rural location in Cullohill when they were approached by man driving a 4x4. Portlaoise Circuit Court heard the girl “was picked up and put into the SUV through the driver’s door across [to] the passenger seat”.

The man then attempted to drive away but one of the brothers “ran up, reached in and attempted to strike the driver in the vehicle”. The boy then continued “hanging off” the 4x4 with his feet off the ground.

When the vehicle slowed, the youngster got off and initially continued his pursuit on foot. His sister had managed to escape the vehicle and the boy returned home when he noticed his sister and brother running in the direction of the house.

Garda Deegan said the three children were able to give a description and provide a partial registration of the 4x4.

The court heard Mr Martin, who is originally from Dublin, has 92 previous convictions. The majority of the convictions are for fraud and robbery but also included a conviction for a sexual assault of a girl, threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a woman and in another incident, false imprisonment. Una Ní Raifeartaigh, defending, handed the judge a detailed 16-page psychological report on her client. “His childhood makes for grim reading,” she said.

Ms Ní Raifeartaigh said her client has a very low IQ and was diagnosed with mild mental disability. She acknowledged the false imprisonment conviction from 2004 and said her client had struck up a relationship with a girl in her mid teens when he was in his 20s. The pair went to the North but after four days “they came back down on the train and were met by gardaí at Connolly Station”.

She said there were no charges of assault or sexual assault arising from this incident. Ms Ní Raifeartaigh admitted “what did happen was a very shocking snatching of a child”. However, she said the court isn’t entitled to speculate on what might have happened. “They did get away and that will thankfully mitigate the affects on the children,” she added.

Judge Keenan Johnson remanded Martin in custody to appear again next Thursday when sentencing continues.


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