06 Jul 2022

Midlands car chase as families clash with bars, sword, billhook and sledgehammer

Case heard in local circuit court

Car chase in Tullamore as families clash with bars, sword, billhook and sledgehammer

Garda told Tullamore Circuit Court men had billhook, sledge, bars, sword and clippers

Suspende sentences of three-and-a-half years, along with an order to pay €6,000 in compensation to a victim, were imposed on men involved in violent incidents on two successive days in Tullamore more than two years ago.

John Ward, 37, Callan Ward, 27, and Patrick Ward, 34, with addresses in Kilcruttin, Tullamore, appeared at the local Circuit Court for sentencing in relation to offences committed on August 26 and August 27, 2019.

Judge Keenan Johnson heard evidence that a sledgehammer, a billhook and a sword were carried as weapons by various men and there was also a chase involving a number of vehicles around the centre of Tullamore town where one driver was intentionally rear-ending another.

The court was told that previously other people involved in the dispute, Patrick Wesley McDonagh (also known as Wesley McDonagh), John McDonagh Junior and Amanda McDonagh had been sentenced.

The two McDonagh men received suspended sentences of three-and-a-half years and John McDonagh Junior received a six-year driving ban.

An 18-month suspended sentence was imposed on Amanda McDonagh and the court heard that another man, John McDonagh Senior, was the victim of an assault and had not been charged.

Judge Johnson was told last week that on August 26, 2019 a number of the Wards and McDonaghs were in a house in Kilbrook, Tullamore to watch a boxing match and a fight broke out after words were exchanged between John Ward and John McDonagh Junior.

Garda Conor Shields said that during the incident Wesley McDonagh got out of a car with a sword and Patrick Ward came out of a house with a sledgehammer and they went for each other.

John McDonagh Junior was armed with a long handled billhook, John Ward struck a van with a billhook and at one point John McDonagh Junior picked up the sledge which had been dropped by Patrick Ward.

Garda Shields said Callan Ward struck John McDonagh Senior who fell to the ground and it appeared from CCTV footage that he also kicked him in the face, resulting in Mr McDonagh Senior having to be brought to hospital.

Patrick Ward arrived to the hospital with hand injuries and there was an incident in the car park where Amanda McDonagh jumped on his car and broke its windscreen.

A medical report revealed that Mr McDonagh Senior had fractured tibia and fibula, a nose fracture and a wound to his left limb.

The following day at 5.30pm Callan Ward was parked in his van near Market Square and when members of the McDonagh family arrived in other vehicles there was an attempt to block Callan Ward before he drove off.

Amanda McDonagh was seen holding an iron bar in Market Square and when Callan Ward drove around the square in a loop he was rammed a number of times by John McDonagh Junior's Suzuki jeep while Wesley McDonagh was also behind driving a white Transit.

As the car chase continued, Callan Ward overtook a number of vehicles on the wrong side of the road on Harbour Street and then took a left at William Street but got struck in traffic.

John McDonagh took a right at that junction and then reversed back towards Callan Ward who got out of his vehicle holding a steel bar.

Meanwhile, Wesley McDonagh got out of his van with a garden clippers, John McDonagh Junior had a hammer and Amanda McDonagh arrived with an iron bar.

Wesley McDonagh ran after Callan Ward down William Street and John McDonagh Junior smashed Mr Ward's passenger window.

Callan Ward's vehicle was also struck by Amanda McDonagh with her elbow and Mr Ward estimated the cost of the damage at €6,000.

In an interview following his arrest, Patrick Ward said he had been in Kilbrook because he was buying a horse from a man called James McDonagh.

In his interview, Callan Ward said after stopping his vehicle on William Street he grabbed a bar and “hit the floor with it as a bluff” and when sirens were heard the other people “bottled” at that stage.

The court heard that John, Patrick and Callan Ward had all previously been sentenced for assault.

John Ward had been married for 15 years and was a father of eight, including 15-month-old twins with medical difficulties.

Defence counsel John Peart said he had been a significant boxer when he was younger and also played junior A with Tullamore GAA.

Garda Shields agreed with Mr Peart that all the parties to the matter were equally culpable.

Mr Peart also said that John Ward had not brought a billhook with him but had picked it up in the yard.

Judge Johnson remarked that it would be very unusual to have a billhook in an urban residence because they are usually used for chopping down shrubbery by farmers and would not be needed for work with horses.

The court also heard Callan Ward was an unemployed father of four, from eight years down to 17 months, and Patrick Ward had three children with his wife and one child in England.

The parties to the dispute had engaged with the local Traveller mediation service and there had been no resumption of inter familial violence.

In a victim impact statement, John McDonagh Senior said that prior to being assaulted he was a very sociable man and used to visit friends and family but he was now on 50 tablets a week and could not sleep with the pain in his leg.

He thought he was going to die that day in Kilbrook and his family had not been the same since it happened.

Judge Johnson said the “volatile explosion” and “extremely violent behaviour” was an affront to the citizens of Tullamore and it was sad that all the parties to it were members of the settled Traveller community which had a very noble culture but feuding did them a disservice.

The Wards had all pleaded guilty to assaulting John McDonagh Senior and violent disorder at Kilbrook and Callan Ward admitted affray at William Street and dangerous driving.

In addition, Callan Ward had pleaded guilty to threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Patrick Wesley McDonagh on May 11, 2020 at Heffernan's filling station, O'Moore Street, Tullamore.

Garda Shields, who was praised by Judge Johnson for his overall investigation, told the court that on that date a red Hiace came towards a garda patrol car and Wesley McDonagh, who was distressed, said that Callan Ward and another individual had approached him at Heffernan's.

Callan Ward threatened to kill him, told him “You're dead anyway” and the other person punched his van after Mr McDonagh had been followed out of the shop.

Wesley McDonagh said that as a result of the threat when he would go down town he would have to watch his back, lock his van and sometimes his wife had to collect his social welfare.

Judge Johnson imposed a two-year suspended sentence on Callan Ward for threatening Wesley McDonagh and banned him from driving for two years.

He also ordered him to pay €6,000 within 12 months for the assault on Mr McDonagh Senior.

The judge also remarked that Callan Ward had been well advised to plead guilty because he would be serving a sentence if a jury had convicted him.

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