A dangerous offender who kidnapped an elderly woman in front of her dying husband during a seven-month crime wave has been jailed for at least six years.
West Belfast man Sean Tate’s crime spree included nine armed robberies and two burglaries.
Tate (36) embarked on his crime wave on January 28, 2010 — just six days after he was released from prison after a seven-year sentence, Belfast Crown Court heard.
He began with a spate of night robberies, which included four shops and five off-licences — many of them staffed by lone women.
In all of them, Tate, from Monagh Crescent, used the threat of weapons including knives, and sometimes even handguns.
In a single day, on May 5, 2010, Tate robbed two off-licences in south Belfast, while on another, May 22, he robbed a shop and smashed his way into a couple’s home.
Chillingly, he kidnapped the woman in front of her terminally-ill husband and forced her to drive around west Belfast in their all-terrain vehicle, which he had hijacked.
He told his victim he was from the Continuity IRA and was on the run from the police.
Tate’s crime spree ended on July 2, 2010 when he and a youth broke into a student couple’s house on Sharman Road.
While he took the woman upstairs to get their car keys, his teenage accomplice held a knife to her partner's throat before the pair sped off, driving their vehicle dangerously on roads between Kennedy Way and Westrock Mews.
When he crashed the car and was arrested Tate became aggressive with police officers.
But he later pleaded guilty to a total of 31
charges, including nine robberies, seven of possessing weapons, two of possessing a gun or imitation gun, aggravated burglary, burglary, dangerous driving, driving without insurance, failing to provide a specimen, resisting police, aggravated car theft, hijacking, kidnapping and possessing cannabis.
Judge Gemma Loughran told Tate he had “violated the sanctuary” of people’s homes during his “appalling catalogue of criminal behaviour”.
She told Tate that he had left victims from all parts of the city traumatised, many of whom were providing services for their local communities.
However, she did not feel his offending warranted a life sentence.
Instead, the judge told Tate he would spend a minimum of six years behind bars before he could apply to the Parole Commissioners board
to be released back into the community. Judge Gemma Loughran said there was a “glimmer” of hope for the future in that Tate had expressed remorse for the crimes he had committed and had even penned a letter to the judge describing how he wanted to turn his life around for his
partner and their baby. She added that given his record and glut of offences, “it's not surprising” that he had been deemed to be a high-risk, dangerous offender.
The judge also banned Tate from driving for two years.