Armed robber who threatened to chop victim's fingers off is jailed
A Belfast man will serve at least eight years in jail for a "terrifying armed robbery" on a family home in which he threatened to cut a man's finger off and petrified a woman in her 70s with a handgun.
Eamonn O'Boyle (41), of Westrock Gardens in the west of the city, robbed and "terrorised" a Co Down businessman and his family at their house outside Ballynahinch on September 11, 2013.
O'Boyle pleaded guilty to robbing £5,500 in cash, cheques and jewellery, three counts of falsely and injuriously imprisoning the elderly woman, her husband and their son and making a threat to kill the woman.
He also admitted possessing a gun with intent to commit robbery and the theft of a Mercedes car.
Passing sentence yesterday at Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Piers Grant told O'Boyle that he was assessed as a "danger to the public in the future. You pose a high risk of re-offending and a high risk of harm."
Ruling out imposing a life sentence, Judge Grant said he was instead handing down an indeterminate sentence of 16 years "for the protection of the public".
He told O'Boyle: "The minimum period you will be required to serve will be eight years in custody without parole but you will not be immediately released after that.
"It will be up to the Parole Commissioners to decide when you will be released."
The court had heard that the businessman, then aged 82, and his son were set upon by three men wearing balaclavas armed with a handgun as they returned home from their Ballynahinch shop.
Prosecutor Sam Magee said the men shouted that they were from the UDA or the UVF and frogmarched the pair into the family home.
The businessman's 76-year-old wife, who was preparing dinner in the kitchen at the time, was threatened with a gun.
Tying them up at their hands and feet and making them lie on the floor, one of the gang lifted a kitchen knife and threatened to cut off the fingers of the couple's son if they didn't hand over cash and valuables and also keys to a safe and a car.
After ripping phone lines from the walls the gang sped off in the woman's stolen Mercedes car.
Before leaving, the masked men warned the terrified and bound-up family members that they had "someone watching the house" and not to call the police.
But the elderly lady managed to free herself and called the police to raise the alarm.
The court heard that officers spotted the stolen Mercedes on the Malone Road in south Belfast.
Following a short chase, coming to an abrupt end when the car crashed, O'Boyle and co-accused Kieran Smyth (56) of Springfield Avenue, Belfast, were arrested.
A third accomplice ran off and still remains at large.
Cash totalling £5,570 and cheques totalling £2,823 were found along with a Rolex Oyster watch, mobile phones and tie pins.
The court heard that victim reports on the husband and wife and their son said their ordeal had a "significant impact" on them.
O'Boyle was also handed down concurrent sentences, ranging from three to six years, for possession of a firearm, three counts of false imprisonment, possession of the firearm for robbery and aggravated vehicle theft.
The defendant was also banned from driving for five years.