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NATIONAL: Man guilty of gunpoint hijacking of woman during botched armed robbery after leaving his phone at scene

Man guilty of gunpoint hijacking of woman during botched armed robbery after leaving his phone at scene

Criminal Trevor Byrne has been found by the Special Criminal Court to have been the raider who left his phone at the scene of a botched armed robbery before hijacking a woman's car to flee the area.

Byrne has 41 previous convictions, including those in connection with the robbery of an off-licence, during which Byrne pointed a gun at gardai, got into an unmarked garda car in a bid to escape and also held a gun to a taxi-driver's head as he was pursued by gardai. He received sentences ranging from two to eight years for those offences and was released in November 2009.

In December last year Byrne was also jailed for nine years, having been found by armed gardaí in a back garden cabin where a loaded handgun had been stashed. 

On Thursday, the non-jury court convicted Trevor Byrne (41) of Cappagh Road, Finglas West, Dublin 11, of robbery, possession of a firearm, false imprisonment, threatening to kill and of unlawfully seizing a vehicle used in a getaway in 2010. 

Byrne had pleaded not guilty to the five charges arising from the armed robbery by two males of BoyleSports in Applewood Village in Swords, Co Dublin, on March 19, 2010. 

However, the court was satisfied that a mobile phone dropped at the scene during the robbery was Byrne's and that the defendant had been captured on CCTV in the bookies on the day. 

Byrne had told gardaí that the phone could have been an older one that once belonged to him and claimed to have had a phone stolen from him.

In his judgement on Thursday, presiding judge Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said that texts from the phone to a number saved as 'Ma' the day before the robbery "identically" matched numbers also saved as 'Ma' found on two more of Byrne's phones.

Mr Justice MacGrath said it would have been incredible for the phone to have been "stolen and then brought back to the scene the next day by someone who looked like the accused".

Three members of staff at the bookies said they were put in fear of their lives and threats were made to a woman who Byrne and another male car-jacked outside the Boylesports.

The woman, Miss Helen Leigh, gave evidence of one of the men telling his accomplice during their getaway that he "could not believe" he had dropped his phone at the scene.  Ms Leigh said that the males refused to let her out of the car, demanding that she look to her left out the window and not at them. However, she said she could hear one refer to the other using a word beginning with 'T'.

They eventually released the Ms Leigh on a country road but took a portion of a letter she had in her handbag and threatened to come and find her if she went to gardaí.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that he was satisfied with the good quality of the CCTV at the bookies, from which gardaí identified the defendant as he looked towards the camera upon entering the premises. Byrne and the other male then enter the bathroom, from which two men reemerge 35 minutes later at around 6.30pm brandishing guns and wearing balaclavas.

Mr Justice McGrath said that the court was satisfied that that the robbery, which only saw €1,490 parted with by the teller, had put the staff and Ms Leigh in fear of their lives due to the use of "lethal weapons" by both men.  

Judge MacGrath said that he was satisfied that it was the accused, Byrne, caught on the CCTV in the bookies before the robbery and said the CCTV, which captured the entire incident was of good quality. He said that the staff and Ms Leigh were all "entirely consistent" in giving their evidence and that Byrne's claim that the phone was stolen from him "doesn't bear scrutiny".

The judge found Byrne guilty on all five charges and adjourned the case to July 19 for sentencing.

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