ENNIS Circuit Criminal Court has heard how a heroin addict robbed an Ennis shop at knifepoint and how a local man then made heroic efforts to apprehend the criminal.
Michael Gammell, 29, formerly with an address at Ivy House, Barrack Street in Ennis, received a three-year jail term, with one year suspended, at a sitting of the court in the past week.
Sergeant Mark Murphy explained that on May 23 last at approximately 9.25am, the accused entered O’Connor’s Shop in the Market in Ennis, with a hooded jacket over his head.
A female shop assistant was serving customers there and he demanded that the €50 notes be given to him.
“He had a scarf covering his face and a hood and a small, sharp kitchen knife, not a bread knife. She opened the till for the lotto machine and there was €80 or €90 in it and as she did that, he told her and another customer not to ring the guards, in a threatening manner. The entire amount he stole was in the order of €260,” Sergeant Murphy said.
He explained that the shop assistant was so concerned that she didn’t notice what he wearing, as “she was in a state of shock”.
“He had the knife up initially and pointed it in a threatening manner at all times but lowered it during the robbery,” he said.
As matters unfolded, he explained that three members of the public saw what happened and saw where Gammell had fled. One of them gave chase on foot and he was apprehended in the Wood Quay area of Ennis, a couple of hundred metres away.
“He caught up with him at the taxi rank and when he grabbed hold of him, Gammell said he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. He held onto the accused. It was an act of great courage, the likes of something I’ve never seen before. He saw the knife on the ground three feet from the accused after he had apprehended him,” Sergeant Murphy said. He explained that the knife had a blade of between six to eight inches.
Gardaí arrived quickly to the scene and Gammell was arrested and detained and found to have the cash on him. Sergeant Murphy said Gammell refused to cooperate and sign the memo of his first interview. In a second interview, he said “I’m not guilty, simple as” and in a third interview, he again refused to cooperate and sign the memo.
Sergeant Murphy said Gammell is originally from Limerick but came to Clare a number of years ago with his brothers, who are staying with him. He said he lived in Barrack Street with his brother, Gerard, for approximately eight months and he was in a relationship with a local girl. He said Gammell was known to gardaí as a heroin addict with a €75 a day habit.
He outlined that he had 32 previous convictions, a number of them for theft, criminal damage, robberies, possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life, assaults and public order.
“Looking at them, I’d affiliate that to his heroin addiction,” the sergeant added.
He explained that the ladies in the shop “are still traumatised” by the incident.
Commenting on the case, Judge Gerald Keys, presiding, said “It is a serious offence because it involves threats of violence which involves innocent parties. The aggravating factors in the case are that there was no co-operation and the purpose of the crime was drug motivated.”
Addressing the accused, the judge said, “You have an addiction to drugs and to obtain money to facilitate your habit. However, I do take the point that you have entered an early plea and have been making some progress in custody, that you have had no disciplinary problems while in prison and are now drug free. I’d suggest that the reason you have no disciplinary problems is because you are drug free, such is the consequence of that. You have a previous record that doesn’t read well. Probation report indicates you are at a high risk of re-offending, unless you continue a programme of rehabilitation for drug addiction.
“I’ve no doubt if you were to participate in a programme while in custody and thereafter when released, then there is a good chance you will not come before the court again but that is a decision for yourself and the responsibility rests with you alone. Robbery is a serious offence and a message has to go out from this court that it will not be treated lightly by these courts, except in exceptional cases,” he said.
He imposed a sentence of three years and suspended one year for a period of one year on the condition that on Gammell’s release he be placed under probation supervision and comply with any directions they recommend. He said this should include entering into residential treatment.
He then backdated the sentence to May 25, 2014, when Gammell first went into custody on this matter