Farm worker walks free over hostage taking

Tom Howard: Will undergo a psychiatric assessment.

A farm worker who subjected a gardener, his daughter and her fiancé to a double-barrelled shotgun hostage ordeal yesterday walked free from court.

Farm worker, Tom Howard, aged 50, of Gortnaminch, Listowel, Co Kerry, walked free after a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity at the time of eight separate charges arising from the three-hour drama at Donnybrook House, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, on July 2 last.

In the incident in the grounds of the home, Mr Howard fired his shotgun in a bid to startle Declan Finn who overpowered him.

On the date, Mr Howard, wearing a balaclava, blue medical PVC gloves and armed with the shotgun, took 68-year old gardener Tadhg Corbett hostage at about 4.45pm in the grounds of the home of retired solicitor and former president of the Law Society, Patrick Glynn.

Mr Howard kept Mr Corbett hostage for two-and-a-half hours before Mr Corbett’s 27-year-old daughter Elaine Corbett and 29-year-old Mr Finn came to the home as Mr Corbett had not returned for his dinner.

However, on their arrival, Mr Howard emerged from behind the trees in the garden of the house to falsely imprison at gunpoint Ms Corbett and Mr Finn.

In evidence, Det Garda Roddy Burke said Mr Howard ordered Ms Corbett to tie Mr Finn to a chair in the garden but because of Ms Corbett’s nerves she was unable to tie up her fiancé.

Det Burke said Mr Howard told Ms Corbett to sit on Mr Finn’s lap. The detective said Mr Howard then struck Mr Finn on the back of the head with the barrel of the shotgun and a struggle ensued between the two.

Det Burke said Tadhg Corbett also grappled with Mr Howard while he was still in possession of the shotgun.

Det Burke said it was at this stage Mr Howard fired the shotgun and it was aimed to an adjoining field. No one was injured. At this stage Mr Finn removed the balaclava from Mr Howard’s head. Ms Corbett raised the alarm and contacted the gardaí at 8.10pm. Det Burke said on arriving at the scene he saw Mr Finn sitting on Mr Howard; and Mr Corbett was shaking and was hardly able to speak because of nerves.

Det Burke said Mr Howard told the three while he was on the ground that he wanted to take his own life.

Det Burke said Mr Finn sustained 10 stitches and a fractured knee from the assault. The detective said Mr Howard “did not seem with it” when arrested.

In a statement to gardaí, Declan Finn said he tried to console Mr Howard when sitting on top of him after hearing Mr Howard describe his personal circumstances and that he wanted to try to take his own life.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Howard had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to eight charges arising from the incident.

In evidence from forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, Paul O’Connell said Mr Howard’s mental illness at the time grossly impaired his judgement.

A jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Judge Gerard Keys remanded Mr Howard on bail pending the Central Mental Hospital identifying a space for him where he will undergo a psychiatric assessment.


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