Suspended sentence in child abduction case

Wednesday 29 January 2014 22.14
Thomas Pfeiffer did not comment as he left the court in Waterford
Thomas Pfeiffer did not comment as he left the court in Waterford

A man who abducted and falsely imprisoned an 11-year-old boy over two nights has been given a three-year suspended sentence.

Dr Thomas Pfeiffer, 51, a German academic who worked in Waterford, was found guilty last month by a jury at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court.

Judge Pauline Codd said Pfeiffer had engaged in a significant level of deceit and that it had been very frightening for the boy over a two-day period with a sustained period of upset.

She sentenced the doctor of computer science to three years in jail for the child abduction charge, but suspended the sentence for three years.

He received a one-year suspended sentence for two other charges relating to false imprisonment.

Pfeiffer was also ordered to have no further contact with children in educational or research programmes.

The court heard that the boy, who is now aged 16, came to Ireland from Berlin to improve his English.

Pfeiffer, from Coolfin, Portlaw, Co Waterford, picked up the 11-year-old at Dublin Airport in January 2009 and drove him to his home in Co Waterford.

He had lied by telling the boy's mother that her son was staying with another family over the weekend before he would be going to the original "host" family on the Monday.

The court heard the boy felt he had been imprisoned in the house for the two days, and even though there had been no physical or other abuse, the boy was deeply changed and had lost trust in people.

Pfeiffer had set up a company advertised as 'English – K12' in order to improve his English.  

Pfeiffer, also from Berlin, drove the boy from the airport in a booster seat.

In his house, he measured and weighed the boy. He made him do sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks.

Pfeiffer also zipped him into a specially restricted sleeping bag both nights before he unzipped it both mornings. 

The boy's mother and aunt both told the court of their upset and anger to discover that the boy had spent the weekend at Pfeiffer's house.

In a victim impact statement, the boy told the court his trust in other people was now gone.

The court heard Pfeiffer has one previous conviction, for a driving offence.

He is single and came to Ireland ten years ago to work on research projects with the Waterford Institute of Technology. 

The institute said Pfeiffer was only ever employed by the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group as a researcher, on defined research projects and has not been in their employment since 2011.

John Kelly, senior counsel for Pfeiffer, said today his client admitted he was wrong in that he was puffing up his own organisation.

But said he had no ulterior motive and that he has been assaulted twice in Cork Prison and that it was his first offence.

Judge Codd said there had been quite a significant level of deceit.

She said it was an unusual and bizarre case and that it was very frightening for the boy who had felt very scared.

She said Pfeiffer had not cooperated with gardaí and had chosen to fight the case.

As he walked from court, Pfeiffer had nothing to say when asked why he did it and what did he have to say to his victim.