A 25-year-old man committed two armed robberies in Portlaoise within a week, so frightening a taxi driver with a knife that the injured party could not even bring himself to report it to the gardaí.
Patrick Dwane (25), of no fixed abode but previously residing in Portlaoise, faced two counts of robbery, and two counts of the production of an article, at the recent sitting of Portlaoise Circuit Court.
Detective Garda John Paul O’Brien gave evidence, with State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly, that at 2am on December 22 last year, a taxi driver working a shift parked in Portlaoise’s Top Square was approached by Dwane, who requested being taken to the filling station on the Mountmellick Road.
In the car, Dwane produced a knife and threatened to pierce the driver’s throat. The taxi driver handed over €20, which was all the cash he had.
The court heard that the taxi driver did not report the matter to the gardaí.
On December 27, 2015, three males entered the Carry Out Off Licence on the Mountmellick Road, two armed with knives.
They concealed their identities and shouted and demanded money from the two staff members working, with over €1,000 handed over as well as packets of cigarettes or tobacco to the value of €250, and a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum.
The men fled in the direction of Lakeglen and the panic button in the store was activated.
After viewing CCTV footage, the accused was identified by Det O’Brien.
On January 4 of this year, Dwane contacted the gardaí himself to make a report. When Det O’Brien met him at Fairgreen, Dwane inquired after the taxi driver.
At this point, the gardaí knew nothing about this robbery, and Dwane was arrested.
In interview, he fully admitted his part in the robbery of the off-licence.
“He was the main culprit, he told them to empty the tills,” said Det O’Brien.
“It was his plan,” said the detective.
Dwane also gave details of the robbery of the taxi driver, and the gardaí subsequently located the injured party and took a statement from him.
Det O’Brien said that the taxi driver had not reported the robbery due to fear.
The detective also said that Dwane was a heroin addict at the time, and had eight previous convictions, including robbery and burglary offences.
Victim impact statements were given to the State by the employees of the off-licence, one of whom was a man in his 30s and the other a man in his mid-20s.
One of the men said he was scarred for life from the incident, and he had opened the till as quickly as he could on the night.
“I’ve never been as frightened in my life,” he said, adding that he did not sleep the night it happened.
The other man told the gardaí that he was frightened on the night.
He said that the night after the robbery he had gone out to feed animals, but just froze in the yard.
He said: “I never felt fear like it and I never want to feel it again…. Fear and the will to life were all mixed into one.”
The taxi driver who was robbed also made a statement, saying he was frightened on the night and for a long time after.
He said he had lost trust in people and now finds it difficult taking young male passengers.
He was also at a loss of earnings of €100, having finished work early that night.
Defence for the accused said that Dwane had cooperated fully with the gardaí.
Defence said that the accused had a long-standing drug addiction, and had been taking heroin and tablets at the time.
Det O’Brien confirmed that the accused had a strong addiction to drugs.
The accused was homeless, said defence, and had been in Cloverhill prison since January.
Defence said that Dwane had been assessed for residential treatment at Coolmine and found suitable.
He asked the court to structure sentencing so as to leave the accused some light at the end of the tunnel.
Judge Keenan Johnson remarked that: “Clearly the robbery was such a frightening experience the taxi driver couldn’t even bring himself to report it.”
Judge Johnson adjourned the matter to March 7 next year, saying he wanted a report confirming Coolmine would accept the accused.
Dwane was remanded in custody to that date.