A chronic drug addict who doused a filling station assistant with petrol and threatened to set him alight, before robbing money from the shop and getting away in a stolen car, has been remanded in custody for sentence on June 15.
The 31-year-old man, who had committed various robberies, some at gunpoint and some at knife-point, in the preceding days had been diagnosed with AIDS not long before he committed the robbery at Maxol filling station on Harold’s Road on January 1, 2003.
Gary Hall, of Hill Street, Summerhill, with 36 previous convictions, had four counsel prosecuting him before Judge Frank O’Donnell at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on eight different indictments involving over 20 further counts of robbery, committed between February 2002 and January 2003.
Evidence had been heard on July 24, 2003 on seven other indictments against him involving a similar amount of robberies.
The sentence hearing had been adjourned several times since then so that all outstanding matters against Hall could be dealt with when he is sentenced.
Judge O’Donnell has adjourned sentence again until June 15 to allow Hall’s defence to get an updated psychological report on him.
Hall had been jailed in 1998 for seven years for larceny but had his sentence reduced to four years by the Court of Criminal Appeal in December 12, 2001.
He was released on the same day and was caught committing robberies again by February 2002.
He locked a 86-year-old man in his kitchen while robbing him and got caught in a revolving door at the National Irish Bank in College Green after two members of staff attacked him with a chair following another knifepoint robbery.
The court heard he had to leave his shoe behind to make his getaway and was seen hand money to a female accomplice outside who had been shouting for help for him when he was stuck in the door.
When they tried to get away in a taxi a civilian shouted at the driver that they had been involved in a bank robbery.
The woman was held nearby while Hall ran off towards O’Connell Bridge with one foot shoeless but he too was intercepted by gardaí and €5,580 was recovered.
The court has also heard how a Sutton woman who had just come out of her shower on July 11, 2002 to find him hiding behind her bedroom door, ran down to the street wearing only a towel.
Hall grabbed five rings and made his escape but was recognised later at a DART station by a garda from the description issued.
He dropped a screwdriver into a bush before being arrested.
The court heard that Hall admitted to most of the robberies after calling gardaí while he was at the Mater Hospital in October 2002 suffering from a severe injury to his leg which arose from him injecting himself with a syringe several times in his groin area.
He almost lost his leg as a result.
He rang Garda Eamon Maloney from the hospital and admitted to having burgled a house in Drimnagh the Shell filling station on Parnell Street on May 2, 2002; a house on Walkinstown Road on May 29, 2002; a house on Kildare Road, Dublin 2 on June 6, 2002; a Spar shop in Crumlin on July 21, 2002; the Xtravision on Sundrive Road two days later; and a newsagents on Crumlin Road and the KCR shop on Kimmage Road five days later.
He also admitted to robbing another newsagents on Kimmage Road on August 5, 2002; the Spar shop on Rathgar Road on August 10, 2002; the Texaco filling station on Rathfarnham Road on August 20, 2002 and a Maxol filling station in Dublin 4 on August 23, 2002. He had stolen a car the day before for that robbery.
He had earlier pleaded guilty to robbery on August 15, 2002 of Clonkeen Service Station, Clonkeen Deansgrange and possession of firearms on the same occasion.
The modus operandi he employed in most robberies was to go into the shops, pretend to be making a purchase, and when the shop assistants opened the tills after scanning in the goods, he produced a large knife or another implement and threatened to use it on them unless they gave him money.
Detective Garda Maurice Gormely told prosecuting counsel, Mr Paul Carroll BL, that Hall and an accomplice arrived at the Maxol filling station around one in the morning of January 1, 2003 in a small red car.
Both men were wearing scarves on their faces and the Chinese shop assistant was immediately wary of their presence.
Hall walked over to the hatch where the shop assistant was and began spraying the inside of it with petrol. Some of the liquid splashed on the assistant’s face and clothes.
Hall then held a lighter in one hand and threatened to set the man on fire if he did not hand over money.
He climbed over the counter and the shop assistant opened the hatch to allow Hall in. Hall’s accomplice stood in the vicinity with a knife.
Hall went in behind the counter and took all the money in the till. He demanded more and the shop assistant gave him the €200 float he had as well as a large number of cigarettes.
The two men left the premises with over €1000 in cash and property.
Before leaving in the red car they cut the phone line in the shop. The shop assistant, who feared for his life and has been mentally scarred permanently as a result of the experience, managed to note down the number of the car.
Gardaí were notified and realised that the car Hall and his companion were travelling in had been stolen the day before.
Working on directions given by the shop assistant, they managed to locate the car near Fatima Mansions. Hall had attempted to burn it, and the vehicle had to be written off.
Gardaí found both Hall and his accomplice in the Fatima Mansions area and they were both arrested.
His accomplice was sentenced last year to three years for his part in the robbery.
In the following month, on February 20, 2003, Hall robbed the Centra shop on Templeogue Road, Templeogue Village at knife point.
He managed to take cash and goods worth a total of €2000.
Garda Garry Sheridan told prosecuting counsel, Ms Orla Crowe BL, that the money he had stolen had been spent within two hours of the robbery.
He agreed with Hall’s counsel, Mr Luan O Braonain BL, that Hall had received news of his terminal illness that very day and it had been his intention to kill himself then.
That was why he had spent all the money the same day.
Mr O Braonain told Judge O’Donnell that Hall had been chronically addicted to heroin and cocaine and had been "lurching from one offence to another" in order to feed his habit.
He never intended to harm his victims, even though he had threatened to use knives and guns on them.
Neither had he intended to set the Chinese shop assistant alight even though the man, frightened for his life at the time, "was not to know that."
Counsel said it was very important that the court had the benefit of an up to date psychological report on Hall before a sentence is imposed on him.