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17 May 2022

Tipperary armed robber thought it was 'all a dream' the day after shop holdup

'Tipperary armed robber thought it was 'all a dream' the day after shop holdup

Nenagh Court: 'Tipperary armed robber thought it was 'all a dream' the day after shop holdup

A man who robbed a store in Nenagh woke up the following morning thinking it was all a dream, Nenagh Circuit Court heard.
Matthew Mulqueen, 54, of 38-41 Connolly Street, Nenagh, pleaded guilty to armed robbery at Centra, Clare Street, on August 29.

The court heard that Mr Mulqueen entered the shop around 10.40pm. He was wearing gloves, a black beanie hat, and a skin-coloured facemask with the image of a moustache on it; around his shoulders was a shawl that belonged to his mother.

The court heard that Mr Mulqueen approached the counter, took an implement from the back of his trousers and rested it on the counter, pointing at the till operator. He quietly asked her for money.

The till operator believed the implement to be a firearm and she removed the till, which Mr Mulqueen placed in a white plastic bag. He left the shop with €833 in cash. The cost of replacing the till was €100.

Mr Mulqueen walked towards Yewston, where he discarded the till bag in a hedge. The gardaí were called and the scene was preserved for technical examination.

Det Garda Paudie O'Leary gave evidence of examining CCTV footage, which led to Mr Mulqueen’s subsequent arrest. The defendant made full admissions to the robbery, but said he had been drinking heavily that day and little recollection of it.

Mr Mulqueen denied using a firearm in the robbery, and believed he had brought either a metal bar or a wrench into the shop, though he “wasn't 100% sure”.

Garda O'Leary said gardaí found several items - including the gloves, hat, mask and shawl - in a lane where Mr Mulqueen had discarded them. They also found around €160 in coins.

No firearm was ever found, nor was there any bar or wrench, though a gas heater lighter with a long nozzle was recovered and this, the court heard, could have been mistaken for a gun.

Garda O’Leary said the CCTV footage of the implement used was inconclusive.

The defendant told the gardaí that he had drank two bottles of wine and four cans of beer that day.

He could not remember what he did with the rest of money, which was never recovered. He thought he hid it in a ditch but could not find it when he went searching the next day.

“I thought it was dream,” Mr Mulqueen told the gardaí of waking up the morning after the incident.

He did however admit the offence and said it had been “playing on my mind ever since”. He wrote a letter of apology to the shop assistant, a 20-year-old student, who had been working there part-time.

Defence counsel Dermot Cahill described the incident as a “drunken escapade, which was amateurish overall”.

The robbery had been poorly planned and it bore “all the hallmarks of a man drinking too much”, said Mr Cahill, who referred to a probation report and outlined the defendant’s difficulty with alcohol.

The accused - a father of two teenage daughters - had been in custody since last September and prison had had “a very sobering effect” on him.

Mr Mulqueen had eight previous convictions, one of which related to the robbery of a laptop, mobile phone and cash from a Brazilian national operating as a prostitute in Nenagh in 2012.

He also had a conviction for arson in 2020, when the court heard that the defendant put petrol into a paint bucket and set fire to it, causing damage to a dwelling following a dispute between his ex-partner and another party.

Judge Cormac Quinn noted that Mr Mulqueen was nearing the end of a suspended prison sentence for robbery at the time of the Centra incident, and that this sentence was triggered by the arson offence.

Judge Quinn imposed a three-year prison sentence, backdated to September 11.

He activated 18 months of the suspended sentence, which were to run consecutive to the three years, but which Judge Quinn suspended in full with conditions that Mr Mulqueen keep the peace and remain under the supervision of the Probation Service for 18 months after his release.

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