Marc Roberts is again with a tribute to John Denver – Connacht Tribune – Galway Metropolis Tribune:

A man hijacked a car outside his local store in broad daylight, held his driver hostage and threatened to break his jaw if he didn’t drive it to a supermarket to buy him vodka.

It took a jury just 27 minutes to unanimously find 24-year-old Michael Barrett, from 46 Béal Srutha, Ballybane, guilty of falsely detaining the young driver of an Audi A4 and illegally seizing his car using threats of violence to control the vehicle in front of the gala shop on 2/3 Beal Srutha on May 3rd last year.

Barrett’s defense team alleged during his two-day trial in the Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week that he asked the driver outside of Gala to take him to Joyce’s in Ballybane and the driver agreed to do so.

Paul Flannery SC defended that Barrett denied using the threat of force to get the driver to take him to Joyce’s, and he also denied asking the driver to come with him to Joyce’s for him Buying vodka.

CCTV footage downloaded from cameras in front of both supermarkets was shown to the jury of eight women and four men.

The footage from Gala showed the victim getting back into his car parked right outside the store during his lunch break after buying drinks.

Barrett was seen approaching the car, carrying a paper coffee mug, and opening the passenger door. He got in and a minute later the car drove away.

Joyce’s CCTV picked up the car a few minutes later, which was pulling into the parking lot at high speed. The car was parked in a parking space directly across from the front door. The driver got out briefly. Just as Barrett gets out of the car on the passenger side, you can see the driver getting back into the car and driving away at high speed. Barrett crossed the parking lot towards Béal Srutha.

Garda Lena Fregne told the jury that she had received a report on the alleged hijacking of a black Audi A4 and took photos of items confiscated in the car. This included two empty paper coffee cups that were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for DNA analysis.

The driver told the jury he knew Barrett because he grew up in the area but no longer lives there.

He said he asked Barrett to get out of the car as he was anxious to get back to work after lunch, but Barrett locked the door and told him to drive or he would break his jaw and he did would still take the car from him.

“He told me to bring him for a spin or he would hurt me. I felt extremely shaken and threatened and I thought it wise to follow his orders until I have a chance to get away, ”said the jury witness.

He said Barrett told him to drive around a bit and he did as he was told.

As they approached Joyce, Barrett told him to pull into the parking lot and wanted him to buy him vodka in the store.

The witness said he parked as close to the front door as possible, believing it was his best option to get help, knowing that this area would be concentrated in people and surveillance cameras as well.

He told Barrett that he had no cash on him, just his cards, but he got out and pretended to walk in with him before he got a chance to jump back in the car and lock the doors when Barrett in the passenger seat got off the side.

Mr Flannery told him that Joyce’s was only a three to four minute drive from Gala and that he had voluntarily driven his customers there.

“He wanted you to take you to Joyce’s house for vodka, and you shook his hand as he got into the car. I suggest he didn’t threaten you, ‘said Mr Flannery to the witness.

“He threatened to break my jaw and said he didn’t care if I called the Gardai. I went with them when the threats began.

“I was in such a state of shock that I can’t remember shaking hands with him. I told him I was on my lunch break and had nowhere to go, ”he said.

Mr Flannery said the man also refused to take a picture as requested of Barrett on Barrett’s phone, claiming he wasn’t as scared as he pretended to be in front of the jury for refusing to take the picture to make and had also refused to go to the Joyce is at his customer’s in order to buy him something to drink.

“I don’t remember being asked to take a picture. I was so shaken that I didn’t know what to do. I tried to get out of the situation, but I couldn’t, ”the man replied.

Garda Sean O’Connor said the driver of a black Audi stopped his Garda van in Ard Alainn and told him what had just happened.

He and Garda Brendan Dooher searched the area and found Barrett back in Béal Srutha.

Prosecutor Geri Silke said Barrett was arrested and questioned about the illegal seizure or hijacking of the car. He provided a DNA sample that was sent for forensic analysis.

Mr Flannery said it was accepted that Barrett’s DNA was found on the coffee cups and said his client would not testify in the trial.

After final statements from the public prosecutor and defense attorney, the jury deliberated for 27 minutes before pronouncing unanimously guilty on both counts.

Barrett was taken into custody on July 22nd, pending sentencing. The court heard that he was already in custody that day on other matters. His free legal aid certificate has been expanded to cover the cost of obtaining a psychiatric report on him for the day, along with an updated probation report.

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