A “Jekyll and Hyde” character who robbed with a knife the same Portarlington shop assistant twice in just over a week has been sentenced to six years in prison, with the final two suspended.
“It was bad enough to have perpetrated the first robbery, but to revisit the same offence on the same individual has to be deemed a significant aggravating factor for sentencing purposes,” said Judge Keenan Johnson, in the sentencing of Damien O’Mahony (34), originally from Cork but with a listed address at Waterfront Apartments, Portarlington.
The accused pleaded guilty at Portlaoise Circuit Court to the unauthorised taking of an MPV, two counts of robbery, and theft. The offences occurred between January 28, 2017 and February 5, 2017, in Portarlington.
Detective Garda Derek Barnett gave evidence, along with State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly, that on January 28, the accused stole a car at Waterfront Apartments, Portarlington. The following day, January 29, the accused went to the Rosecourt Filling Station where he threatened the shop assistant with a knife and stole €800, before he fled the scene in the stolen car.
That night, the stolen car was recovered. CCTV footage showed a sole male occupant park the car in the car park outside Waterfront Apartments. Det Barnett said that from his investigations, he established the accused as a suspect. CCTV footage was also obtained from the filling station, but the culprit was covered up so he could not be identified.
On February 5, the accused again robbed the Rosecourt Filling Station, once more threatening the same shop assistant with a knife before making off with over €400. He was covered up during the incident, but thanks to CCTV footage and information provided by a passer by the raider was observed fleeing towards the Waterfront Apartments.
Previously, on January 31, the accused went into Colgan Sports at Patrick Street, Portarlington, where he stole a beanie hat. Det Barnett said this hat was recovered on February 1 outside the Waterfront Apartments.
On February 6, the day after the second robbery, the gardaí searched the accused’s home at Waterfront Apartments. During the search, a black-handled knife was found together with a grey top that matched the one worn by the culprit as seen on CCTV.
The accused told the gardaí he was in a desperate state for drugs at the time, having moved to Portarlington and become involved with the wrong crowd, building up a drug debt.
In a victim impact statement, the shop assistant at Rosecourt said he was terrified and felt his life was being threatened. The accused was very aggressive and fully aware of his actions and the injured party was very shook up after the incident, unable to sleep for days and having to take time away from his studies. He is a college student and was working in the garage to pay his college bills. He returned to work on the assumption that he was unlikely to be the victim of a second robbery in such a short space of time. Unfortunately, this was not the case. When he saw the accused coming to perpetrate the second robbery he froze on the spot out of fear. He found the second robbery much worse than the first, in that after the first robbery he felt there was a slim hope the accused might regret his actions.
Following the second robbery, he endured sleepless nights and days away from college due to trauma. He quit his job, leaving him in financial trouble. To this day, he still wakes in the night remembering the terrifying image of the accused approaching him with evil intentions.
Judge Keenan Johnson said it was abundantly clear that the injured party was traumatised by the incidents.
The judge noted that the accused is at a high risk of re-offending. A probation report made reference to the accused having “a Jekyll and Hyde” character, in that he was able to be both a family man with a solid work ethic, and also indulge in drug taking and aggressive criminal acts in order to satisfy his needs.
The judge imposed six years in prison, suspending the final two years for a five-year period, on condition the accused enter into a peace bond; complete residential rehabilitation; and remain under probation supervision for two years post release.