Wednesday 16 October 2019

Woman's terror as man held her hostage in her own home

Judge's gavel.
Judge's gavel.

A woman and three children suffered a terrifying ordeal when a man under the influence of drink and drugs held them hostage at her Enniscorthy home, and locked two of the children in a cupboard, Wexford Circuit Court was told.

Kathleen Browne, in a victim impact statement to the court said: 'The image of this man putting the kids in the press and putting a knife to his neck will never leave me, the not knowing what he wanted, what he was going to do with me and the kids, will never leave me.'

Liam McCann, of 2 The Avenue, Meadowfields, Enniscorthy, pleaded guilty before Judge Barry Hickson to the false imprisonment of Kathleen Browne on August 11, 2014, at her home near Scarawalsh; damage to the window of the house, and also theft of motor vehicle property of Aidan Browne without consent of owner.

McCann (26) had attended a weekend party lasting into Monday where he consumed drink and drugs.

He demanded the victim call the British Army and police as he thought he was in Armagh, before later making his getaway across the river Slaney close to Scarawalsh Bridge before being apprehended by chasing gardaí.

Prosecuting garda Paul Quirke told the court that on Monday, August 11, 2014, at 4 p.m. approximately, Kathleen Browne was in her home with three young children, aged one, five and seven. The defendant left the party in a neighbour's house across from Mrs Browne's, gained entry to the house by getting a rock in the front garden and smashing a window.

Garda Quirke said the injured party was in the house with the three kids watching television. The defendant got two of the children and put them in the cupboard and closed the door on them. He went over to the press and took out two knives from the kitchen press, held one to his throat but the victim did not know what he was going to.

Following some persuasion the defendant allowed Mrs Browne take the children to the bedroom. After distracting the defendant by giving him car keys, she managed to escape the house with the children. She arrived at her neighbour Denis Hennessey's house, but she was in a state of shock. He said the neighbour contacted gardaí.

Garda Quirke said that when Mr Hennessey went over to the house the defendant had discarded two knives at the back door and had taken the car keys. However, when the defendant got into the car, he crashed it into the back wall. When Mr Hennessey went over to the house he found the defendant in the back of the house. While he attempted to hold the defendant he managed to get away, fleeing through corn fields across the Slaney river. He was later sighted on the Enniscorthy-Bunclody road trying to stop a vehicle at Scarawalsh. He was eventually arrested.

The party, said Garda Quirke had started on the Saturday, and was continuing when the defendant had left on the Monday afternoon. While the defendant was in Gorey Garda Station a doctor was called who deemed the defendant unfit for interview for an hour. When eventually interviewed he made a full admission.

Garda Quirke said the one-year-old child was Mrs Browne's grandchild, while she was minding the two other children for a Ms Karen Walsh. The ordeal lasted for about 15 to 20 minutes, he said. The total damage to property amounted to €5,600.

Mrs Browne in her victim impact statement said: 'I still suffer from anxiety, nightmares, have difficulty in sleeping, and have been prescribed medication as a result.

'Life as I knew it has changed, I don't feel safe in my own home any more. I now rely on medication to help me cope with daily life. When I sleep I suffer nightmares, when alone I would hear things and think there was someone in the room with me. I now find myself jumping at loud noises and bangs.

'I give thanks to God every day that I along with the kids, no physical harm came to us, but emotionally it has been very difficult for me over the past year. Home is said to be your castle but home for me is a place when I now feel most vulnerable. Day and night I lock my doors and windows. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.'

Replying to defence counsel Colman Cody, Garda Quirke said the location of the incident was behind the pub in Scarawalsh.

Mr Cody said when the defendant broke the window with bricks, entered the house, he asked the lady to call the British Army and Police as he thought he was in Armagh. He asked if she had a gun as he had to defend himself and then got a knife threatening to cut his throat. He then got into the car and crashed it. As he later crossed the fields and the river he kept shouting there were snipers on the bridge ready to shoot him.

The defendant, said Mr Cody, had lived for a period in Motherwell in Scotland. He accepted full responsibility for what happened. He had no previous convictions but suffered from depression.

Mr Cody said the defendant had collected some €1,000 to hand into court. He said the defendant seemed to be a man possessed, a man who was mad and out of control, adding, that no citizen deserved to be in receipt of the actions of a man like that. Having assessed the gravity of the offences, one also had to assess the offender. This was a man not just under the influence of drink but also controlled drugs.

The defendant had no previous convictions, adding, that the court must assess the reason for this bizarre behaviour on the day.

Having read the victim impact statement and the many reports, Judge Hickson said the defendant had made tremendous efforts to rehabilitate himself.

While he did not intend to harm Mrs. Browne and the three children he did do it as one would see from the victim impact statement.

Judge Hickson said he would sentence the defendant to three years in prison on the false imprisonment, but he would suspend the last six months for two years, on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour. He sentenced him to 18 months in prison, to run concurrently, on each of the remaining twoo charges.

Wexford People