Man is jailed after stealing woman's car at knifepoint
A man who threatened a woman with a knife as he hijacked her car in Londonderry has been jailed for five years and banned from driving.
Joseph Patrick McMullan (29) from Kavanagh Court in Ballymagroarty, was told by Judge Philip Babington that his victim told the police she thought she was going to die during the incident.
McMullan - who has 130 previous criminal convictions in Northern Ireland, 77 of them for car crime - pleaded guilty to nine charges linked to hijacking and driving the victim's Peugeot 206 from the Springtown Shopping Centre car park on May 20 last year.
His 36-year-old victim was waiting to collect her children when McMullan jumped into the parked car armed with a knife.
He screamed at the woman to hand over her keys, but instead she grabbed them from the ignition and ran from the car screaming for help.
However McMullan ran across the car park after her, grabbed her by the hair and forced her to the ground where he took the keys from her. As McMullan tried to start the car, the woman opened the passenger side door and pulled the handbrake on.
She continued to struggle with McMullan who eventually forced her out of the car before he revved the engine and drove off towards the border.
The woman, as well as a man who came to her assistance after the hijacking, alerted the police.
A few hours after the hijacking, the stolen car was spotted by the PSNI helicopter crew.
It was being driven along the Groarty Road back towards the shopping centre.
The crew informed officers on the ground who then used a stinger device to force the car to a halt by puncturing its tyres.
McMullan then ran from the car across a nearby field but was caught by officers.
Judge Babington told McMullan at Derry Crown Court yesterday that his record was appalling, and that in this case, he had threatened a vulnerable woman with a knife.
"This was a completely unprovoked, mindless attack on a woman sitting in her own car in the car park by a well-known store in Derry.
"It happened during the hours of daylight and indeed other statements suggest that people were on their way to church," he said.
"There is absolutely no doubt this woman was screaming for help but none was forthcoming.
"The defendant's conduct was bad enough in getting into her car and frightening her with the knife, but then to follow her out of the car and drag her to the ground by the hair so as to get the keys was completely mindless thuggery and must have been very horrifying and frightening for her.
"She acted as she thought she should in protecting her own property and belongings and the defendant showed her not one jot of mercy."
As well as being jailed for five years, McMullan was also banned from driving for five years.