Gerry Garvey, his wife Anne and their children, a twin boy and girl, aged 16, and twin boy and girl aged 14, were held hostage in their home at Pallasgreen, Co Limerick, before the gang of four men made off with a sum believed to be in the region of €4,000, which they took from a safe in the house.
The terror attack began at 9.40pm when the gang smashed their way into the house through a patio door at the rear of Sunville House which used to be an old, country-house restaurant.
The four raiders wore balaclavas and were armed with a sawn-off shotgun and a sledge hammer.
On entering the house they started screaming and making serious threats while manhandling the couple and the children.
Mr Garvey, 51, said: “They put a gun to my head as my daughter (aged 16) watched on. They were threatening to kill me and I tried to stay as calm as I could in the circumstances and let them do what they wanted to do.
“My wife and the children were very traumatised.
“There have been a few burglaries in the area in recent weeks, but it is a quiet area and nothing like this has happened before.
There are marauding gangs scouring the country.
“They were very loud and it was short, sharp and very frightening. The police response was brilliant. The gardaí from the regional response unit had to cut the handcuffs off me with cutters.”
Anne Garvey said: “I was upstairs and Gerry was in the kitchen. They were shouting and threatening and said they were going to kill my 16-year-old girl.
“They put handcuffs on Gerry and shoved him to the ground while one of them put the sawn-off shot gun to his temple. They wanted money and said if they did not get it they would shoot Gerry.
“Two of the twins had run up to the bedroom to me and two of the gang came up after them.
“They wanted the key (of the safe). I did not give the key to them, and opened the safe myself and gave them the money. Gerry and our daughter (16) were in the living room being watched by two of the gang.”
The twin girl, 16, said: “Dad was on the floor and I was near him and one with a sledge hammer was taking care of me and the guy with my dad was the main guy and had the gun and was just threatening to kill him and stuff.
“I was standing in the kitchen and looking into the living room with them putting my dad on the ground.
“It doesn’t feel like it happened.
“Then the guy with the sledgehammer came over to me and brought me over to where my dad was so we would not go anywhere. One had the gun to my dad’s head and I was right beside him.
“The two others (gang members) then came down stairs and the four of them left through the back broken window.
“They had me tied with a cable tie and I was crouched down by dad and he was lying down with a man with the gun pointed at his head.
“I just thought kind of like it was the Rubberbandits. When they first banged at the window I thought it was one of my brothers playing with a ball and then it just smashed into the house.”
After grabbing the money which Mrs Garvey took from the safe, the gang immediately left the family home.
During the whole ordeal one twin, aged 16, was in his bedroom with earphones on playing computer games. “I only realised what happened when (his brother) came in and told me.”
Mrs Garvey put in a 999 call at 9.44pm, just four minutes after the gang burst into the house.
Some time later, gardaí in Buttevant, Co Cork, stopped a car for speeding and became suspicious of the two male occupants.
On searching the car they discovered a large sum of cash and house-breaking implements. After being brought to Mallow Garda Station, a check identified them as two known criminals aged 48 and 41, one from Clondalkin, in Dublin, and the other from Knocknaheeny in Cork.
After they appeared at Mallow District Court on the speeding offence, they were arrested outside the courthouse in connection with the Pallasgreen raid.
Gerry Garvey works with the community support network Paul Partnership in Limerick.
The chairperson of Limerick County Council, Cllr Mary Harty, is a close friend of the Garvey family.
She said: “The whole community is shocked at what has happened.
“They are a very community-involved family and Anne does readings at Sunday Mass. The children must have been very traumatised.”