Belfast Telegraph

Father and son team jailed after Newry burglary spree

John and James Hanrahan have been jailed.
John and James Hanrahan have been jailed.

By Paul Higgins

A father and son burglary team who “used weapons to frighten and threaten members of the public,” were handed sentences totalling nine years on Wednesday.

Sentencing 48-year-old James Hanrahan to five years and his son John (28) to four years custody at Newry Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said the pair were "engaged in a campaign of burglary, sometimes with others, that was serious and could have been more serious as weapons were used".

He ordered the sentences to be served half in custody and half on licence.

Previously he heard that “operating as part of a gang,” the father and son targeted a number of houses in Counties Armagh and Down, in Portadown, Moy, Crossgar, Hilltown and Middleton.

James Hanrahan, from Nursery Drive in Newry, pleaded guilty to three counts of common assault, three burglary offences including burglary, burglary with intent to steal and aggravated burglary with intent to steal and three driving offences of dangerous driving, driving while banned and driving without insurance, all committed in February and March last year.

His son John Hanrahan, also of Nursery Drive, admitted four offences committed at the same time including burglary, two counts of burglary with intent to steal and common assault as well as a further charge of aggravated burglary committed in October 2017.

Opening the facts last week, prosecuting counsel Geraldine McCullough outlined the offences in chronological order, beginning with Hanrahan juniors offence in October 2017.

She said that using a hammer stolen from the garage of the property on the Kilmore Road in Crossgar, John Hanrahan smashed his way into the house and ransacked it, stealing a camera, a hard drive, tools, a generator, a safe and cash.

Although a CCTV system had been removed, a footwear mark was uncovered at the point of entry and when his home was searched on November 2 2017, a matching trainer was seized by police.

The next incident was on the Benburb Road in Moy on February 26 last year, an incident to which both defendants had confessed.

In that incident, said Ms McCullough, the home owner’s mother called her at work to say “that her house had been broken into” and when she returned, she discovered that the contents of the drawers in the kitchen and dining room “had been strewn all over the floor and the whole house had been ransacked.”

The lawyer said that her father who lived next door, had gone to investigate and “encountered two males” leaving the house.

One of the men pushed him and when he ran after him, said the lawyer, the burglar “pulled out a screwdriver and pointed it at him and said ‘come any closer and I will put this through you’.”

Later that same day there was an incident at a property in Middleton where the home of a 74-year-old man was broken into and ransacked.

Officers who viewed CCTV footage of the incident were able to identify the Hanrahans, said Ms McCullough.

Two weeks later, on March 7, there were two incidents the pair had admitted to - James Hanrahan admitted breaking into a property on St. Patrick’s Park in Hilltown and two counts of common assault arising from the incident while his son John admitted breaking into a home at Seagoe Park in Portadown.

Taking the Portadown incident first, Ms McCullough outlined how the 88-year-old home owner had recently gone to live in a nursing home so the property was vacant at the time.

The alarm had been “pulled out,” and the front door broken open with “rooms ransacked.”

A neighbour who went to investigate told police one of the three men who ran from the house pushed him to the ground and threatened him, said the lawyer adding that John Hanrahan had admitted involvement in this incident.

Turning to the burglary of a house in Hilltown the same day, Ms McCullough told the court entry had been gained by smashing a kitchen window with the home ransacked and a wallet, purse and bank card being stolen.

A neighbour who heard banging and smashing called her husband and son to help and they were confronted by three men, one of whom threatened them with a knife shouting “we will f****** stab you!”

Ms McCullough highlighted however the description of this male did not match that of the defendants.

She continued that the three burglars “scrambled” to get into a waiting Audi TT, all of them trying to get in the drivers door, and as it sped away, a wing mirror was kicked off and a photograph was taken of it by the witnesses.

Circulated as wanted, the police tried to stop the car using a stinger device but even with its two front tyres burst, James Hanrahan drove it until he crashed into the back of a police car close to Forkhill.

James Hanrahan was forensically connected to that burglary after one of his socks fell out of the Audi TT as it left the scene and the court heard that two other Audi’s used in earlier burglaries were found at the Hanrahan’s home.

Arrested and interviewed, each man handed the police prepared statements and then refused to answer questions but later pleaded guilty to the respective offences.

Ms McCullough submitted the offences were aggravated because the father and son had relevant criminal convictions for burglary and associated offences, “they operate as part of a gang” and had used weapon to frighten and threaten members of the public.

Police welcomed the sentencing, saying that elderly and vulnerable people had been victims of the crimes carried out by the Hanrahans.

Newry Mourne and Down Chief Inspector Joe McMinn said the father-and-son were "among the biggest players within this type of crime".

"There has been a 30% drop in this type of crime against vulnerable members of our community," he said.

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