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12 years jail for Achill Valentine’s Day raid

12 years jail for Achill Valentine’s Day raid

Victim still believes there are questions to be answered

Anton McNulty

A DUNDALK man was yesterday (Monday) handed down a 12 year prison sentence for his part in the false imprisonment of an Achill couple in their home on Valentine’s Day in 2010.
Michael McMahon of 3 Ashlawn, The Loakers, Blackrock, Co Louth pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of Seán (66) and Emer Lavelle (61) in their home at the Tower Road, Dooagh, Achill and assault causing harm to Seán Lavelle at the same address on February 14, 2010.
Yesterday’s sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court heard that Mr McMahon and his late brother, Seamus were waiting in the Lavelles’ home where they tied them up with duct tape after they returned from the leisure centre in Mulranny. They separated the couple and beat Mr Lavelle around the legs and back and ordered him to leave Achill or else they would return.
Before sentencing McMahon (45), Judge Tony Hunt described the attack on the elderly couple as ‘sinister’ and ‘disturbing’. He said the invasion of a home could not be tolerated and he had to deal with sentencing in a serious way.
He imposed a 12 year prison sentence for the false imprisonment of the Lavelles and suspended the final three years for a period of five years post release.
He also imposed a four year concurrent sentence for the assault on Mr Lavelle.
During the hearing, Mr Hugh Hartnett, SC for Mr McMahon indicated that the attack on the Lavelle’s may have been a case of mistaken identity but speaking to The Mayo News following the sentencing, Mr Lavelle rejected this theory.

Compensation refused
During the court, Mr Lavelle refused to accept an offer of €20,000 in compensation by Mr McMahon as a gesture of remorse and explained that he was looking for answers not money.
“There are questions that still need answering and he’s [McMahon] not answering them,” Mr Lavelle told The Mayo News. “I don’t believe it was a case of mistaken identity. We came home from Mulranny and there were two guys rooting around in our home waiting for us. They were there long enough and there were plenty of photos of us to know if they were in the wrong house.
“There are questions to be answered as to who sent them and paid them and who gave them information about where we lived. I’m happy he got sentenced for what he did but there are still questions to be answered and I hope they are answered in the future.”
The attack took place at approximately 8pm when the Lavelle’s arrived home and were met with two men wearing balaclava’s and boiler suits in their home. They were threatened with nailbars and their legs and hands were tied with duct tape and their mouth was also taped.
Mr Lavelle was separated from his wife, Emer by the intruders and in his victim impact statement which was read out in court he thought he was going to be killed
“As I was being taken away I thought I was going to be killed. I was terrified I thought this was the end,” the statement read.
Mr Lavelle was beaten with a nailbar around his back and his shins and as he was being beaten he was told to ‘leave the island and never come back or we will be back or our friends will’. He was told that he would be taught a lesson and to leave the island by the following Tuesday.

Living in fear
Mr Lavelle explained that he was worried for his wife who had a heart condition and he managed to free himself and tend to his wife and raise the alarm.
He said that his life has changed since then and has only lived in his home in Achill for two months since the attack and is unable to sleep at night. He said he was in fear of people coming to attack him and wondered if the threats against him still existed.
In her victim impact statement, Emer Lavelle said she was terrified on the night and could not believe what was happening to them. She thought that each time her husband stopped roaring he was dead and she thought they were going to be killed in their own home.
She described how her personality had changed since the attack and her life had changed forever since the night.
When the two men left the house they were seen leaving by a neighbour who believed they had been stealing heating oil from his house. He pursued the two men who were driving a Seat Cordoba around the island which had false number plates. The neighbour then called the gardaí.
The court heard that there was only one route out of Achill and the car was stopped at Owenduff near Mulranny and Mr McMahon and his brother were arrested. They were detained for over 24 hours in Westport Garda Station but did not co-operate with gardaí and were released.
On February 17, a search of the area where the car travelled uncovered a boiler suit which revealed DNA which matched that of Mr McMahon and fragments of glass which matched broken glass from the Lavelle home. Mr McMahon was arrested on February 7, 2011 and was charged a day later.
A month following the attack on the Lavelles, Seamus McMahon (41) who was also arrested on the night, was murdered in Dundalk after he was shot twice in the chest. In November 2006, Seamus McMahon was acquitted by the Central Criminal Court in Dublin of a charge of being a member of the Provisional IRA in October 2004.

Previous convictions

The court heard that Mr McMahon had a number of previous convictions in Ireland and in Sweden where he was imprisoned for two and a half years for false imprisonment and drug violation in 2001 and expelled from the country. He was also deported from Sweden in 1991 for narcotics violations.
Mr Hartnett explained that his client was aware of the seriousness of the crime and was remorseful and regretted the incident.
Judge Hunt said that if the attack was a matter of mistaken identity it was of little consolation to the victim and he did not make efforts to get the right person. Judge Hunt said that people should not feel frightened in their own home and that people in the west of Ireland were entitled to look to the courts for protection.