A getaway driver who was part of a gang who went to rob the home of an elderly couple after they went to mass only to find gardaí lying in wait when they broke in to the property has been jailed for 12 years.
Tralee native John Faulkner (38) went on trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court earlier this week in connection with a robbery at a home belonging to a couple in their 80s in Freemont, Charleville, Co Cork on October 19th 2019.
His defence team had claimed that Faulkner could have been dropping off two men off to visit friends.
However, the jury unanimously found Faulkner guilty of the theft in addition to charges of dangerous driving and endangerment.
'Terror to innocent people'
Judge Sean O’Donnabhain said people like Faulker had forced pensioners into lockdown long before the pandemic struck.
"They are bringing terror to innocent people. There was meticulous planning and significant determination in this robbery.
He (Faulkner) knew his ‘customers.’ Elderly people in remote rural areas. The evidence against him was overwhelming.
He engaged in manic driving to get away from the gardai. I am surprised nobody was killed. There is no element of remorse here."
Det Supt Vincent O'Sullivan, who led the garda investigation, which resulted in officers being in situ at the house for "Operation Mass" said that Faulkner had committed a similar robbery involving pensioners in 2007.
He said Faulkner and one of the men involved in the Freemont robbery had targeted the home of two elderly siblings 14 years ago. Mr Faulkner, who has 19 previous convictions, was jailed for this crime.
Det Supt O'Sullivan said that Faulkner and his two accomplices in the Freemont robbery, were "sussing out elderly people in the post office” for burglaries.
He told the court that he had never known the father of four to have a job.
Mr Faulkner of Adelaide Place, St Luke's in Cork city was disqualified for driving for 20 years with Judge O'Donnabhain saying that he had "manically" driven away from gardaí in a dangerous manner in order to evade arrest.
He refuted suggestions from the defence that Mr Faulkner didn't realise that he was fleeing gardaí as it was an unmarked car. The defence claimed that Faulkner thought that he was being targeting by people with whom he is engaged in a feud.
Meanwhile, the trial heard that with the permission of the homeowner gardai installed six gardaí in the house and two gardaí outside the property in Freemont after they acted on information that a robbery was due to take place.
The State's case was that during the course of the afternoon of the robbery a car arrived in the area and two men got out and went in to a field. The court was told that Mr Faulkner was driving the car.
The pensioners left for mass at 5.30/5.40pm that day. As the couple left the same vehicle passed the couple on the road.
Gardai then heard noises at the house. One man was found inside and another man was just outside the window. Both men were arrested.
Gardai in an unmarked patrol car subsequently came across the vehicle driven by Mr Faulkner. Gardai followed the car driven by Faulkner and a car chase ensued.
During the course of the chase the car went around a bend and overtook a vehicle on the wrong side of the road. This resulted in the reckless endangerment charge faced by Mr Faulkner.
The car went through Banteer village at a speed of 150km an hour before veering out of control and skidding on the side of the road. The car crashed in to an unmarked garda car which had its flashing lights on. Mr Faulkner was arrested at that juncture.
Defence counsel, John Temple, said that his client was a "good man, a good father and son" who was very much loved by his family.
He said that his client suffered from severe depression and that his incarceration was a huge blow to his family. Mr Faulkner has children ranging in age from 16 to 4.
It is understood the defence plan to appeal the sentence. The two co-accused who were caught red-handed by gardaí in the Freemont robbery were each jailed for seven years last year after they entered guilty pleas.