Knife man claimed to be Russian mafia

A LITHUANIAN national who threatened a family with a knife during a drink and drug-fuelled burglary in which he claimed to be a part of the Russian mafia has been sentenced to four years in prison.

A LITHUANIAN national who threatened a family with a knife during a drink and drug-fuelled burglary in which he claimed to be a part of the Russian mafia has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Appearing before the recent Circuit Court was Ignas Sirvaitis, who was charged with aggravated burglary and false imprisonment. The court heard from State prosecutor Mr Will Fennelly and Garda Sgt Kieran Shortall that 21-year-old Sirvaitis and another Lithuanian national entered a family home in Millbrook in Portlaoise on September 12, 2011, where three males aged between 18 and 21 were watching television. The two men began shouting at the occupants demanding money and phones, which alerted the father of the household who was upstairs in bed. When the father came down he was forced into the front room where the roaring and shouting continued, before Sirvaitis took a kitchen knife and made stabbing motions toward the occupants of the house. Sirvaitis then left the room and returned with a number of items, including two laptops, a digital camera, two mobile phones, a wallet and a cigarette lighter. When one of the occupants made a move to get his laptop back, he was assaulted and knocked down, before the two Lithuanian men fled the house with the stolen items.

Sgt Shortall said that all items were subsequently recovered, except for the wallet. When arrested, Sirvaitis admitted he had been “smoking drugs” and he told the gardaí he thought there was a party taking place in the house. He also gave an account that one of the occupants of the house had threatened him with the knife, but Sgt Shortall said this was not true.

Sgt Shortall said that the other accused in the case, an older man, was out on bail and had failed to appear in court the previous week.

A victim impact statement by the father of the household was read out by Mr Fennelly. In the statement, the father said that Sirvaitis was lunging at them with an eight-inch knife claiming, “We are from the Russian mafia”. The father said this continued for around 20 minutes. When the man’s son attempted to stop the men from stealing the items, the Lithuanian national who was with Sirvaitis punched him and knocked him to the ground. The injured party sustained a swollen eye and bloodied nose, as well as a fracture to the cheekbone. There was also some concern for the sight in his left eye. The father said that the injured party does not go out much anymore since the attack. He also said that his other son stayed in his bedroom during the incident as he was too afraid to come downstairs.

“I was afraid one of us would be stabbed,” read the statement by the father. “They both seemed high on something. We have not felt comfortable in the house since.... I am continuously checking the front door and outside the house. My outlook on life has completely changed.”

Defence for Sirvaitis was Mr Padraig O’Dwyer. Mr O’Dwyer said that his client had been drinking and doing drugs on the day, as Lithuania had been playing Germany in a basketball game. Mr O’Dwyer said Sirvaitis, who was 19 at the time of the offence, had taken ecstasy and methadone and had made “a spontaneous decision” to enter the house. Mr O’Dwyer said that his client admitted waving the knife around, but he claimed he was not lunging with it.

“All the injured parties say ‘lunging’,” said Sgt Shortall.

Mr O’Dwyer said that it was a combination of drink and drugs that had led his client to commit the offences and he admitted that Sirvaitis’ behaviour was “outlandish”. However, he asked the court to consider his client’s youth and the fact that he was under the influence of an older individual. Mr O’Dwyer also said that Sirvaitis does not drink to the same extent anymore.

Sirvaitis himself took the witness box, to tell the court that he was very sorry for what had happened.

“It was my worse nightmare, I wish I could change it,” he said, adding that he had put away some money by way of compensation.

Mr O’Dwyer informed Judge Anthony Hunt that his client had raised €1,400 compensation and he could get a further €600, if necessary. Judge Hunt replied that the loss to the injured parties was more serious than that, as it involved a loss of security which had left their home tainted and was forcing them to move.

“The home is a horse of a different colour,” said Judge Hunt. “It could have been three-year-olds watching television in the house; it could have been a pensioner; it could even have been a senior counsel or a judge.”

The judge imposed six years, with the last two years suspended.

“The real protection is the dwelling of decent people,” he said.