Belfast Telegraph

Former GAA player Tasker jailed for threatening to kill taxi driver

By Paul Higgins

A former Armagh GAA player was handed a seven-year jail sentence yesterday for threatening to kill a taxi driver he and an accomplice kidnapped and robbed.

Robert Tasker (27) appeared at Newry Crown Court alongside his co-accused 25-year-old Antoin McCooey, who was handed a six year sentence.

Ordering them to serve half their sentences in custody and half on licence, Judge Melody McReynolds told them the case was tainted by "bullying and bravado" against a "vulnerable" taxi driver.

Tasker, who was also facing sentencing for drugs offences, was told by Judge McReynolds that despite defence submissions over his drug use, so far as she could see Tasker's "major addiction problem is his own ego".

At the end of their trial last April, Tasker and McCooey, with separate addresses on St Patrick's Park, Cullyhanna, were each convicted of kidnapping, robbing, threatening to kill and assaulting Paul Kelly in November 2016.

Police investigating the crimes against the taxi driver found drugs at Tasker's home and he pleaded guilty to possessing and supplying cocaine and cannabis.

Once seen as a rising star, he was part of the Armagh side which won the All-Ireland minor football title in 2009 but only played a handful games for the county's senior team.

The trial jury heard from the taxi driver that he believed he was going to die after Tasker held a Stanley knife to his throat and threatened to kill him.

Mr Kelly had picked up the two men from a restaurant in Dundalk just after midnight on November 29, 2016, but when their chat became extremely sexualised, he said the mood in the car palpably changed.

While Tasker produced a Stanley knife, McCooey produced a screwdriver which he moved in a stabbing motion.

Mr Kelly, who has given up his job since the incident, said: "The man in the back kept saying he was going to rape me... he kept saying this all the time, the whole way nearly to Cullyhanna.

"I kept thinking of my kids, it was close to Christmas and I thought they weren't going to have their daddy for Christmas."

Mr Kelly let the pair have his nights takings of €120 but they continued to threaten him.

His ordeal ended when he parked at the side of the road and they got out and walked away.

After the verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Will Tate said: "This was a thoroughly traumatic incident for a man who was simply out doing his job, and I believe the sentence imposed reflects the seriousness and gravity of the incident which has had a lasting impact on the taxi driver and his family."

Det Chief Insp Tate paid tribute to co-operation between the PSNI team in Newry and Garda detectives in Dundalk during the investigation.

Belfast Telegraph

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