A security guard at a repossessed house in Roscommon has told a trial that he was pulled from the house and cut with a blade during an attack on him by a group of men.
The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has heard that at around 5am on December 16th, 2018, a group of approximately 30 armed men, some wearing balaclavas, arrived at a repossessed rural property at Falsk, just outside Strokestown and attacked four of the security guards present.
Patrick Sweeney (44) of High Cairn, Ramelton, Co Donegal; Martin O'Toole (58) of Stripe, Irishtown, Claremorris, Co Mayo; Paul Beirne (56) of Croghan, Boyle, Co Roscommon and David Lawlor (43) of Bailis Downs, Navan, Co Meath have pleaded not guilty to 17 charges each at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Each man is separately charged with false imprisonment of and assault causing harm to four security personnel at Falsk on December 16th, 2018. Each defendant is also charged with aggravated burglary, as well as four charges of arson concerning a car and three vans allegedly set alight.
The four men are also each charged with criminal damage to a door of the house, violent disorder, robbery of a wristwatch from security guard John Graham and, finally, causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by causing or permitting an animal to be struck on the head.
On Wednesday, Gary McCartney told the jury that he previously worked with Ian Gordon, the owner of GS Agencies, the company hired to provide security for the eviction. He said in December 2018, Mr Gordon contacted him and asked if he was available for work.
He said he agreed to do the work and travelled to Strokestown on December 15th. He said after completing his shift, he went to lie down on a camp bed that he had set up in a room to the left of the front door of the house.
Mr McCartney said he had come into the house through the back door as the front door was barricaded. He had taken off his shoes, boots and jacket before getting into a sleeping bag.
Chainsaws and hammers
He said he woke at about 5am, about 90 minutes later, to a lot of screaming and shouting. He got up and put on his jacket. He heard chainsaws and hammers and banging from the barricaded front door.
Mr McCartney said three people then came through the front and clambered over the debris to come into the house. He grabbed a lamp standard that was nearby, and the men came into him and started swinging at him with a hurl to bat away the lamp standard.
He said the people were wearing high vis jackets and dark clothing. He was hit across the stomach with a bat and pulled by his clothing out of the house. He was barefoot as he had no time to put back on his socks and boots.
Mr McCartney told Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, that he didn’t resist the men. “Not at all, as far as I was concerned it was fight or flight. There was too many of them.”
Mr McCartney said his hands were cable-tied and held in front of him before he was brought outside to kneel on the grass to the front of the house.
“It was mayhem. There were people running around with sticks. All sort of things, a stick with nails on it,” Mr McCartney said.
He said he was hit a number of times, about the head and around the legs, with a stick that had nails in it.
Kicked and stamped on
He said he was pushed to the ground and was getting kicked around the stomach, legs and knees before someone else started stamping on his legs. “There were five or six good stamps on my legs,” Mr McCartney said.
He said somebody then came to the side of him with a blade of some sort and started pulling the blade alongside his neck.
“I was kneeling at this stage. They were to my side. They used one hand to hold my head and the other to bring the blade just under my ear, down to the front, my skin was cut,” Mr McCartney said.
He said he was being screamed at “Who do you work for? Where do you live?” He said he felt “very, very afraid”.
He saw Ian Gordon to his left and he said he was totally distraught. He also saw someone carrying a dog from the side of the house out towards the front gate.
Mr McCartney said the men ultimately left and someone cut his cable ties. The gardaí arrived and they were brought to a local station where he was later picked up from by people he knew.
Mr McCartney agreed that photographs were taken of his injuries and he confirmed that some of the photos showed a cut to the side of his neck and one just in front of his ear. Other pictures showed puncture marks on his stomach.
The man said these marks had been made when he was struck with the stick that had nails in it. He also confirmed other photographs showed bruises on his body that had been caused by the hurl.
He identified further photographs of injuries on his legs and puncture wounds on his lower back and over to his side.
The trial continues before Judge Martina Baxter and a jury.