A traumatised Joe McLaughlin spoke of his ordeal as attackers put a gun to his partner’s head and warned him she would be found dead in a graveyard if he did not follow their instructions.
Mr McLaughlin, owner of the Village Stores and Post Office in Castlebellingham, Co Louth, also hit out at rising crime in Ireland and suggested “not enough gardaí are out on the beat; they are too busy with red tape”.
Describing how he had just returned to the rural home he shares with Tess Coleman after walking his dog, Mr McLaughlin revealed how three men came up behind him and put a gun to his head.
“We were taken into the kitchen. A gun was put to Tess’s head and they produced a mobile phone and (used it) to take a picture of Tess. They got her to write a note to the post mistress and to tell her to follow the instructions on it,” said Mr McLaughlin.
He was forced to leave Tess behind and head into work as normal. “I was told to go about my normal business until the post mistress came in at 8.50am and then show her the picture and the note. She had to fill a black bag with money and then I walked out with it [the bag].
“I had to leave it at a specified place and I was told that if the gardaí were contacted or there was an alarm or buzzer that Tess would be found in a graveyard,” he said.
After he dropped off the bag of cash, which gardaí have confirmed contained in excess of €100,000, Mr McLaughlin collapsed on the footpath near the shop. Somebody then rang the gardaí.
“I then spent the longest 40 minutes of my life waiting for word to say that Tess was safe. I just hope I never ever have to go through something like that again.”
The Louth man also hit out at the fact that a full-time Garda presence had been withdrawn from Castlebellingham.
A similar theme was repeated in Limerick, where a priest was burying the latest victim of serious crime in the city.
Fr Paddy Costelloe, speaking in St Mary’s church at the funeral Mass of bread man Daniel Treacy, said it was unacceptable that people were being mowed down by assassins armed with guns and bombs.
In his address, Fr Costelloe said: “We cannot live in this city with helicopters hovering above to keep peace... if people going about their daily business have to have Garda protection.
“We cannot continue to live in this city if you cannot go into a petrol station to get a newspaper, milk or the ubiquitous breakfast roll, maybe made from bread delivered by Daniel Treacy.
“It cannot go on. Something has got to give. We are people of hope, that is why something has got to give. People of violence will tell you they have their Glocks, their AK47s, their pipe bombs and artillery. Let us tell them this morning we have something more powerful. We have at our behest, within our hands, in our grasp, the invincible power of prayer.”
Daniel Treacy, 35, was shot dead on his early morning round last Monday. His father, Phil, who runs the bakery business in which his son worked, is escorted on his bread round every day by armed gardaí. Two men were still being held by gardaí last night in connection with the murder.
He is under threat because evidence by another son, Owen, led to five members of the McCarthy-Dundon gang being jailed for life in 2003 for the murder of Kieran Keane, an uncle of the Treacy’s.
Daniel Treacy’s murder is being linked to the violent death five years ago of Moyross teenager, Darren Coughlan. One of the three men convicted of his manslaughter is Richard Treacy, a brother of Daniel Treacy.