Bulldozer concealed on mother’s land under silage bales and earth
A FOXFORD man who was found guilty of handling a stolen bulldozer found buried underneath silage bales had to provide €30,000 in surety in order to be released on bail.
Edward McAndrew of Curradrish, Foxford, was found guilty by a jury of handling a stolen bulldozer following a five-day trial heard before Judge Rory McCabe at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court.
The 46-year-old business man was accused of handling the stolen Komatsu bulldozer between August 22, 2014, and May 12, 2016. The 22-tonne bulldozer was reported stolen from a field in Claregalway on August 22, 2014, and was eventually found on May 12, 2016, by gardaí when land belonging to Mr McAndrew’s mother was searched.
During the search, a garda stood on silage bales and noticed a yellow colour breaking through the ground. The silage bales and earth were removed, revealing the stolen bulldozer.
Mr McAndrew denied the machine was stolen, claiming it belonged to him and that he bought it in the UK. He told gardaí it had been stolen from him after he brought it to Mayo, and that he had discovered that it was in Claregalway and he arranged for it to be taken back to his mother’s land in Foxford.
He claimed he decided to hide it after he received a threatening phonecall warning that if he did not return the bulldozer the ‘dogs will be let out’. He added that he accepted he should have reported the matter to the Gardaí and let them deal with it.
However, the jury found Mr McAndrew guilty of the single charge. Gardaí objected to him being released on bail before the sentencing in October. Sergeant Tom Doyle said that McAndrew did not cooperate in any way during the investigation and he feared he would be a flight risk.
Mr Diarmuid Connolly, counsel for Mr McAndrew, said his client has a partner in Ireland and always turned up for his court appointments.
Judge McCabe commented that he was willing to grant Mr McAndrew bail subject to a cash lodgement, noting that the sum would be ‘five figures with a three in front’.
After consultation with his client and his legal team, Mr Connolly said his client was prepared to provide the surety but needed time to transfer the money. Judge McCabe allowed for a 24-hour adjournment. The following morning he was informed that McAndrew had transferred the money to his solicitor’s account.
Mr McAndrew was granted bail, on condition that he surrender his passport, not apply for travel documents, not leave the jurisdiction and sign on weekly at Castlebar Garda Station.
During the trial, the history of the 2007 Komatsu bulldozer was outlined to the jury. It was purchased in 2008 by Sligo-based Cawley and Scanlon Construction Company, but in February 2012, the company defaulted on its loan, and later that year the High Court ordered for its return to Friends First Finance.
The machine was reported stolen in the summer of 2012, but in September 2013 it was bought by John Morris Plant Hire Ltd based in Athenry. John Morris told the trial he bought it from Vincent Lawless Plant Hire with the intention of exporting it to Ghana, but the deal in Ghana fell through and it was parked up in a quarry near Athenry. He explained he eventually found work for it in Galway City and Claregalway, from where it was stolen.
During the trial, the jury heard that the Komatsu bulldozer that Mr Morris reported stolen had a different serial number from that on the machine found in Foxford. Mr Morris said that as far as he is concerned, the bulldozer the Gardaí showed him was the same one that had been stolen from Claregalway.
Expert witnesses were called by the prosecution, who informed the court that some of the identification markings were not genuine.
Sgt Doyle explained that during his investigation he made enquiries from Komatsu, which confirmed that the bulldozer found in Foxford was the one that had been bought by Cawley and Scanlon in 2008.
Sgt Doyle informed the court that on the day the machine was found in Foxford, Mr McAndrew called him from the UK and threatened to sue him if he moved the machine. He said he would provide documents to support his claim of ownership, but this was never done.
On March 23, 2017, Sgt Doyle arrested Mr McAndrew after spotting him at property he owned at Ballyvary. When questioned following the arrest, McAndrew said he buried the machine because it was the only place it was safe.
On June 22, 2017, McAndrew met Sgt Doyle again at Galway Garda Station with a prepared statement that outlined how he came to own the bulldozer. He said he bought it in Liverpool for £78,000 Sterling and claimed a background check revealed no outstanding finance and no history of being stolen. He said he brought the machine to Ballyvary in January 2013, and claimed it had been stolen between March and April 2013, when he was in the UK. However, he did not provide documentary evidence to prove these claims.
Following the jury’s verdict and the granting of the bail, Judge McCabe adjourned sentencing to October 28.