Belfast Telegraph

14 years for brothers behind 'callous' raids on homes of Northern Ireland priests

BY ASHLEIGH McDONALD

Two brothers who embarked on a Northern Ireland-wide crime spree that included breaking into parochial houses and robbing priests have each been handed 14-year sentences.

Jailing 38-year-old Owen John Maughan and his brother John Patrick Maughan (32) for their "callous and sometimes brutal" behaviour last summer, Judge Geoffery Miller QC spoke of the vulnerability of those they targeted, who offered little or no resistance.

The brothers' offending came to an end in a field in Co Antrim after they were pursued by police in vehicles and a helicopter.

They were both informed they will spend half their sentences in prison, followed by seven years on licence.

Belfast Crown Court heard the brothers were members of the Travelling community and had both endured a troubled childhood which included stealing food to feed themselves due to parental neglect.

Before he imposed the sentence, Judge Miller was told that between July 22 and 25 last year the Maughans carried out three burglaries and attempted a further two.

Owen Maughan, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, was also sentenced for breaking into the parochial house at St Peter's Cathedral on the Falls Road the year before, while John, from Birchdale Manor in Lurgan, admitted driving offences.

Owen Maughan and a co-accused stole cash and other personal items on July 15, 2015. During this break-in at St Peter's, a handgun was produced and Maughan held a 53-year-old priest against his will for a time. Personal items were stolen, along with £850 of weekend offerings from Mass.

Crown barrister Sam Magee revealed that on July 22 last year the brothers bought a Vauxhall Corsa in Lurgan for £300. Later that day the duo tried to break into St Colmcille's Church in Holywood.

On the evening of July 22 they targeted St Michael's in Finaghy. The 71-year old priest answered the door to the Maughans, who produced a black handgun. The brothers proceeded to ransack several rooms, and made off with £80 and a set of keys.

Mr Magee said that the priest was "ushered around the premises" by the Maughans. He also revealed that the gun - which the priest believed was real - was a replica.

The court heard that as a result of the burglary the priest had been unable to stay at the premises for several nights, and has lost confidence in dealing with strangers.

On July 25 the brothers were finally apprehended in a field. During his arrest John Maughan tried to steal a gun from an officer's holster. He later told police: "If I had got it I would have killed you all to get away."

Neither man co-operated with police, but later admitted to a series of charges including aggravated burglary. The brothers both have criminal records on both sides of the border.

The court heard both men had accepted their behaviour was appalling and had since expressed remorse.

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