The 32-year-old known criminal was under arrest last night at Henry Street Garda Station. When arrested he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
The car was stolen from outside a shop at Woodview while their mother bought cigarettes — the criminal forced two children out of the car before stealing it with the two-year-old still inside.
One girl, aged 11, received injuries to her lower back when the criminal jabbed her several times with a screwdriver to force her out of the car. She bravely carried on trying to rescue her baby brother from the car despite being attacked but he managed to drive off with the child still inside. After about a mile he dumped the two-year-old out on the side of the road.
After a high-speed chase, a garda support unit cornered the criminal near the entrance to the Delmege Demesne on the Old Cratloe Road at the rear of Moyross. After they called on him to surrender, the man drove the stolen car, which had hit a gate pillar, at them. At this they fired two shots, forcing the car to a halt.
The drama started at around 9.20am at Woodview shopping centre near Limerick Institute of Technology.
A mother of six, aged 32, who lives at Ballynanty about a mile away and who asked not to be named, had stopped at the Centra store to buy cigarettes.
She had earlier dropped three of her children aged 14, six and four off at two local schools and three others — a girl aged 11 and two boys aged 10 and two — were in the back seat of the black Opel Zafira.
She said she was running late at the time.
As she was at the checkout talking to shop worker, Debbie McCarthy, the woman heard her daughter cry out: “Mummy, mummy, quick, quick.”
The woman afterwards said: “I knew something serious had happened.”
The boy, aged 10, was crying and standing on the footpath near to where the car had been parked.
On running to the shop door, the mother watched in horror as her car sped off with her two-year-old son strapped into the back baby seat.
She said: “I just started screaming for help. I was thinking everything a mother would think. I didn’t know what he was going to do, was he going to beat the child up or was he going to crash the car, would he go through the windscreen. There were so many things going through my head.”
A relative of hers, who was also bringing children to school, came along and they drove towards Cratloe in the hope of locating the missing child.
“I kept saying ‘Please God show me the way he went’. I knew he went on straight but after that I didn’t know where he went,” he said.
At a point near the Country Club pub they came upon the two-year-old standing in the middle of the road.
“I was just so happy to see him — and hugging and kissing him and thanking God he was alright,” she said.
The thief had jabbed the boy’s older sister in the back with a screwdriver to force her out of the car, and she cut her knee when she fell on the ground.
As there were child locks on the two back doors, the man dragged the two older children out the front door before taking off with the little boy strapped in the child seat.
Staff at Gleeson’s pharmacy next to the Centra store took care of the two children left at the scene.
John McCoy, 49, manager of the Woodview Centra store, rang 999 when he heard the mother scream.
He said: “She kept screaming ‘My child, my child’. One of the children ran into the store in a terrible way saying a man had robbed the car. We have never seen anything like this before. I knew this woman from coming in regularly. Debbie McCarthy who was working at the checkout was very shocked at what happened.”
The man under arrest last night was jailed for 12 years in 2003 along with another well-known gang figure for an arson attack on a house on the outskirts of the city.
As there was an incident involving gardaí discharging firearms, the Garda Ombudsman Commission was informed but will not be conducting an investigation.