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23/09/2021

Brave woman foiled attempted robbery at Offaly off-licence

Brave woman foiled attempted robbery at Offaly off-licence

Brave woman foiled attempted robbery at Offaly off-licence

Swift action by a woman working in an Edenderry off-licence foiled a robbery attempt by a local man, Tullamore Circuit Court heard.

Judge Keenan Johnson praised Kirsty Faynes for how she had switched on a smoke-bomb device at the Carry Out off-licence at JKL Street in the town on November 3 last when Paul Cullen, a 35-year-old of no fixed abode, came in armed with a knife and demanded money from the till.

Detective Garda Joe Hughes told the court Ms Faynes recognised Mr Cullen when he entered, even though he had his hood up and was wearing a face mask.

She noticed a knife in his right hand, told him to put it away and then pressed an emergency button, followed by a second button which activated the smoke-bomb device.

In CCTV footage played in court, the interior of the off-licence could be seen filling up very quickly with smoke and the man identified as Mr Cullen, who had gone behind the counter, could be seen leaving immediately.

That incident occurred at about 3.30pm and then at 6pm gardai received a report of a man locked in the rear of a delivery lorry across the road from the off-licence.

The man in the lorry was Mr Cullen who had got into it himself. A knife was recovered from inside the lorry.

When he was interviewed by the gardai, Mr Cullen said at first that he could not remember anything because he had been drinking vodka and cider that day.

He said he should not have been drinking because he had been to Portlaoise at 10am to get his methadone.

When a statement made by Ms Faynes in relation to the attempted robbery was put to him, he said he was sorry, that he liked that lady and would like to think he would never harm anybody.

Det Garda Hughes said Mr Cullen had been in custody since the incident. He had 103 previous convictions, including convictions for burglary and robbery, and was now also serving a 12-month sentence for a different offence.

Det Garda Hughes agreed with defence counsel Rory Hanniffy, BL, that “it wasn't the most sophisticated of robberies” and that Mr Cullen was a man with severe addiction issues and a long psychiatric history.

Mr Hanniffy told Judge Johnson the accused felt genuine remorse and letters of apology were handed into the court.

Mr Hanniffy said Mr Cullen had never previously received any addiction treatment but he was now clear of all drugs, had ceased methadone and was only on psychiatric medication.

He had left school at 13 or 14 and gone to London where he worked as a plasterer, a trade his family were involved in and which could provide him with an opportunity for work if his addiction was addressed.

Judge Johnson noted the offence had been committed while Mr Cullen was on bail but it was quite clear to the court that the accused needed admission to a mental health unit.

In a letter to the court, Mr Cullen said he committed the offence so that he would go back to prison and the judge said it was “abundantly clear” he would offend again if he was released.

He suffered from psychosis and severe depression and was in 23-hour lock-up in prison.

Judge Johnson said one could not but feel huge sympathy for him even though what he did was abhorrent.

Mr Cullen's letters to the court and the victim provided an extraordinary insight into the mind of a man who continued to offend because he felt the only consistency he gets in life is to be sent to prison.

He had been in and out of jail for a long time and didn't seem to have any supports on release.

Judge Johnson imposed a six-and-a-half-year sentence but adjourned it to October 12 next.

In the meantime, Mr Cullen is to remain in custody, a probation report must be prepared and attempts must be made to obtain in-patient psychiatric treatment for him.

Judge Johnson also said the smoke-bomb device in the off-licence was very effective and he was told they are not very common.

He said Ms Faynes had acted with great bravery and because of her, Mr Cullen had to abandon his robbery attempt.

The woman had reacted in a very rational and measured fashion and she was to be commended for that. The court had heard Ms Faynes had continued to work in the premises and Judge Johnson described her as a lady of some resilience.

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