A Cavan man has been convicted of false imprisonment after a postmistress, her daughter and an Italian student were abducted from their home four years ago.
Paschal Kelly, 53, with an address at Cootehill, Co Cavan, had pleaded not guilty to trespass and to false imprisonment of postmistress Susan Lawlor, her daughter Emma Carter and Italian student Gabriella Saisa at Seabury Drive, Malahide, Dublin, in September 2014.
Kelly had also pleaded not guilty to robbing Ms Lawlor of cash at Bayside Post Office in Dublin and threatening to kill her, Ms Carter and Ms Saisa.
He had also denied unlawful possession of a vehicle.
The jury of seven men and five women returned unanimous guilty verdicts on all charges this afternoon after one hour and 40 minutes deliberating.
Kelly has been remanded in custody ahead of sentence in January next year.
The trial was originally scheduled to last six weeks, but extended into a ninth week due to legal argument in the absence of the jury.
Judge Karen O'Connor thanked the jurors for their "extraordinary service and your extraordinary commitment to you jury service".
Judge O'Connor excused them from jury service for life. She directed victim impact statements for the three injured parties.
Women tied up during raid
During the trial Ms Lawlor, Ms Carter and Ms Saisa described being abducted by two masked and armed intruders in the early hours of the morning and driven to various locations before the post office raid.
The two men broke into the home, tied the women's hands with cable ties and bundled them all into Ms Lawlor's Nissan Qashqai.
They were later joined by a third raider in a Volkswagen Golf at a field in an unknown location.
On the way to this field, Ms Lawlor told the jury her phone rang in her handbag. She said the driver "freaked" and asked "Who … is ringing you at this hour of the morning?"
She said that this raider, who she called "Number 1", had initially come into her room after breaking in and had demanded to know if she had made a call.
She denied doing so to the intruder, but told the jury that she had managed to ring a special "hotline number" issued by An Post when she heard her daughter screaming in the house.
After her phone rang in the car, her daughter tried to calm the situation by suggesting it was one of the neighbours.
"I feared for my life because the Number 1 guy kept saying he was going to shoot me if I'd made the call," Ms Lawlor testified.
Ms Carter said it had "felt like a horror movie" upon seeing two intruders in her home but that she "knew it would be okay" if the raiders got their money.
Ms Saisa, who had been staying with Ms Lawlor while she learned English, said she had felt nauseous on the car journey to one destination and thought the men were going to kill her.
She said at one point she heard them say they had "no choice" but to do what they were doing.
Ms Lawlor said raider Number 1 beat and threatened her when she told them the post office safe was on a timer. She said they drove her alone to her workplace hours later and robbed the cash.
She described how she spat in the backseat of the raiders' car and plucked one of her hairs on this journey to the post office. She told the court: "If I died, I wanted gardaí to know I'd been in the car."
She said once she got to the post office, Number 2 brought her inside while Number 1 waited in the car.
She said Number 3 joined them in the post office and he brought the other two women inside. She said she heard Number 2 on the phone to Number 1, assuring him the women were "tied up face down on the ground with guns to our backs and not to be worrying".
Ms Lawlor said at 8am the raiders opened the safe and she suggested they use a post bag to empty the money, as she knew it would be linked to the raid.
She said as soon as the men left her and the other women, she hit the panic button and phoned gardaí.
Chubb Ireland employee Adam Coughlan told the court that he was working at his company's monitoring centre when a call came through on the "tiger kidnapping line".
Armed garda fired shot during pursuit
Mr Coughlan explained that Chubb Ireland ran this helpline for An Post and other financial institutions. He said that when the call came in about 1am, "An Post TK" displayed on the monitor on the special phone.
He said he heard "muffled sounds" when he listened and that the caller's number came up as belonging to Ms Lawlor.
Gardaí were contacted as a result of this call and the situation was monitored over the night.
A member of the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) said he saw the raiders' Volkswagen Golf in a line of traffic, while he was on duty in an unmarked patrol car.
He described seeing "a flurry of activity within the cockpit of the car" and "a lot of agitated movement".
He said he pulled up alongside the car, shouted out "armed gardaí" and then got out of his vehicle with his firearm drawn. He and his colleague ran after two men who got out of the Golf.
The garda described how he chased one of these men down the driveway of a house and saw him throwing a small black item away towards woodlands on his right. The suspect ran past some stables and got over a fence into a field.
"I saw him suddenly stop and begin to turn around. I saw what I believed to be a firearm in his right arm. I called 'armed gardaí' and called on him to stop.
"He didn't react and I discharged a shot at him. He continued to turn. He didn't react. I discharged a second shot. I was in fear of my life," he testified.
After the second shot the suspect dropped to the ground but then "suddenly sprang to his feet" and ran to a nearby wall. The detective continued to chase him but lost sight of the man in the end.
Another ERU member said he ran after the two suspects who fled the vehicle, one of whom was later identified as Stephen Murray. He was arrested at the scene.
Garda Gerry Archer told the jury that he attended premises in June 2016 where Mr Murray had taken his own life.
Witness description matched suspect - prosecution
In his closing address to the jury, prosecution counsel Kerida Naidoo SC said Ms Lawlor's description of "Number 1" matched Kelly.
He said the getaway car driver was linked to a phone that had been tracked to different cell sites near the post office and had only communicated with a second phone. He said this other phone remained in the post office's general location.
Defence counsel Martin O'Rourke told the jury in his closing speech that the "strength of DNA testing is so sensitive and in many ways that is also its weakness".
He also suggested gardaí had "ignored" a line of inquiry into another man who could have been involved in the raid, because of their fixed view of Kelly.
He described the attitude of some gardaí giving evidence in the trial as "contemptuous", suggesting they had feigned memory lapse or omitted to take notes.
Mr O'Rourke said this was "contemptuous of civilisation" and "reminiscent of a postwar Soviet bloc, where police are beyond challenge".
Mr O'Rourke said it is the defence case that no identification parade was held because gardaí knew this suspect was not Kelly.
"The truth is they didn't want to damage their case by witnesses saying that's not the same man", he said.
He suggested gardaí had a fixed view of his client, which explained a lot about the investigation and how the evidence was presented in court.