By Aoife Nic Ardghail
A mother and son have described their ordeal of being held captive near the Wicklow Mountains during a €2.28m robbery almost 15 years ago.
Marie Richardson said it had been a normal Sunday until she and her two teenage sons were kidnapped by an armed gang, while her cash-in-transit driver husband was forced to get the money.
She said she and the boys were bundled into a jeep, driven to a secluded Wicklow area, kept there for hours and then bound with cable ties before their captors finally left them.
Kevin Richardson, who was then aged 13, told the jury that when they were being tied up, his mother asked her captors: “Who do you think we are, Houdini?”
Ms Richardson and her boys released themselves from the ties and walked down a woodland path, where they flagged down a passing park ranger.
Yesterday, the jury heard that cash-in-transit driver Paul Richardson collapsed on the side of the road when he heard his family had been released. Mr Richardson described how he had followed the gang's orders to drop the €2.28m off at a pub car park in west Dublin.
Mark Farrelly (46), Christopher Corcoran (70), David Byrne (45) and Niall Byrne (36) all pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the false imprisonment of four members of the Richardson family at their home at Ashcroft, Raheny, Dublin, on March 13 and 14, 2005.
Mr Farrelly of Moatview Court, Priorswood, Coolock, Mr Corcoran of Rosedale, Raheny, Dublin, David Byrne of Old Brazil Way, Knocksedan, Swords, and Niall Byrne of Crumlin Road Flats, Dublin, also pleaded not guilty to robbing Paul Richardson and Securicor of €2.28m on March 14, 2005. It was day three of the trial.
The jury heard this is the fifth time the matter has gone on trial.
Ms Richardson told Seamus Clarke SC, prosecuting, that her husband had gone out to collect her older son, Ian, when she heard a knock on the door and saw who she thought was a delivery man. As she opened the door to tell the man he had the wrong house, he pushed into the hallway, grabbed her in a headlock and told her to stop screaming.
She said this man had initially worn a baseball cap, wig and dark glasses but later changed into a black balaclava.
Two other raiders stayed with her and Kevin in the sitting room while this man went around the house.
She described one of the men in the sitting room as a “heavy fat guy” and said this raider removed a handgun and a “long gun” from a box that had been taken into the house. This man later retrieved a polaroid camera and film cartridge from the same box.
She said when her husband returned home, one of the raiders grabbed him by the lapel and told him: “Sit down, everything will be ok, you are going to do a job for us.”
She said her husband had to calm Ian, then aged 17, when he had a panic attack.
One gang member took a polaroid photo of her and her sons on the sitting room couch with an armed man on either side of them. They gathered up all of the family's mobile phones and after some time led Ms Richardson and the teenage boys to a jeep that had been parked outside.
Ms Richardson told the jury that two other men in baseball caps, a driver and passenger, were waiting in this jeep. She said the passenger had a scarf over his face and the driver had his coat zipped up. She said she had a brief glimpse of the driver's “thin narrow” face when he turned to the side.
The driver told them to call him “John” and said if the family co-operated, they would co-operate. Ms Richardson said the passenger remained mostly silent during their captivity, which she described as “unnerving”.
The three Richardsons were driven out of the city to the woodland area, where they spent the night in the jeep. Ms Richardson said at one point she spoke to her husband on a mobile phone handed to her and they assured each other they were all right.
She said towards the end of their captivity she and her two boys were walked up a woodland path and told to get down by a low wall.
She described how at one stage the jeep's passenger, who was carrying what looked like a baseball bat, called the driver “Alan” instead of “John” and that this man's scarf slipped below his nose.
Kevin Richardson told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that the jeep's driver asked the family to give them 15 minutes after they had been tied up and that he said: “This is the part of my job that I hate”.
Kevin Richardson said he heard the two men talk about “bikes” during the captivity and had assumed these were getaway motorbikes, but didn't hear any engines when the raiders had left.
He told Mr McGinn that his brother suggested they look in their pockets after they had been left alone and that's when he realised he had a small penknife keyring.
He said he used this to unclip the cable ties and the family was able to get up and flag down the park ranger.
The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and an enlarged jury of seven women and eight men.