A 33-year-old mother fought back when a man swiped a knife several times in her face as he hijacked her car at the Springtown Shopping Centre car park in Londonderry, a court heard yesterday.
The woman, who was waiting to collect her children in May of last year, ran screaming from her car with her car keys and when the hijacker tried to drive off in her vehicle she got back into the car and attempted to apply the handbrake before she was thrown out.
When she ran from her car the hijacker, Joseph Patrick McMullan (29) from nearby Kavanagh Court, ran across the car park after her. He grabbed her by the hair and swung her to the ground before stealing her car keys, which she had taken from the ignition.
McMullan, who has 130 previous criminal convictions, 74 of them for car crime, then drove off in the car he had hijacked towards the Donegal border. A PSNI helicopter was deployed and the car was spotted being driven along the Groarty Road.
The helicopter crew radioed to officers on the ground who set up a vehicle checkpoint and as McMullan drove the stolen car towards the checkpoint they used a stinger to stop the vehicle. McMullan then jumped from the car and attempted to escape by running through an adjacent field but he was caught by police.
A defence barrister said that McMullan, who came from a troubled background and had mental health issues, was high on Xanax at the time and remembered nothing about the incidents.
A prosecution barrister said that McMullan, who has pleaded guilty to charges of hijacking, robbery, possessing a knife, dangerous driving, driving without a licence and without insurance and while disqualified as well as refusing to give a blood specimen, also had a criminal record in the Republic of Ireland.
Judge Philip Babington said he wanted to see a copy of McMullan's Republic of Ireland criminal record before he sentenced McMullan, who was remanded in custody.