A security guard at a repossessed house in Co Roscommon has told a trial that he had his legs cut with a meat cleaver and was doused in petrol during an attack by a group of armed men.
The property at Falsk, outside Strokestown, was repossessed on December 11th, 2018, and security men were left to guard the farm house and lands.
It is the State's case that five days later, at around 5am on December 16th, 2018, a group of approximately 30 armed men, some wearing balaclavas, arrived at the rural property 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 man is also charged with aggravated burglary, as well as four charges of arson in relation to a car and three vans which were allegedly set alight.
The four men are also each charged with criminal damage to a door of a 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 his second day of evidence, Mr Graham told Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, that he was struck about the head, had his legs cut with a meat cleaver, was bound with cable ties, kicked and had his legs doused in petrol.
He said he was sleeping in the front living room when he woke to noises of men breaking into the house. He said men with batons struck him about the head, shoulder and arms, and he and his colleague, Gary McCarthy, tried to run back into the living room but were overpowered.
He said he and Mr McCarthy managed to get into the kitchen, adding that armed men then came into the kitchen, with one spraying WD40 into the air.
The jury was shown footage from a body-camera of the kitchen and the witness said it showed a man revving a chainsaw. He said he was holding up a chair and he and his colleague had to fight their way out of the kitchen, saying: “We had to use a bit of force to get past these guys.”
He said the chair was taken off him, but he managed to get to the back door. He said he was met by another man who had a 10-inch sharp-edged meat cleaver.
He said this man hit him in the chest but he was not injured because he was wearing a stab proof vest. He said he stumbled and hit the ground and his attacker then stabbed him twice in his left calf.
“It hurt. I tried to get up and run, but I was overpowered by more men that surrounded me. I was hit again with a sharp implement on my head, just above my left eye,” Mr Graham said.
He said he was lying face down on the ground and around six men were beating him repeatedly with baseball bats and sticks.
He said his boots were removed and another man appeared with a petrol canister, dousing both his legs with petrol from his feet to his lower thigh.
Asked how he felt at this point, he told Ms Rowland: “I just thought that was it. I just thought I was dead.”
He said four men lifted him by the arms and legs and brought him around to the front of the property, where another colleague was present and cable tied. He said he was also bound with a cable tie and the men were shouting at him for his identification and his wallet.
He said he was able to get his wallet out of his backpack and throw it into bushes nearby, but one man then took his wristwatch from him.
He said throughout this, men were kicking and hitting him and his colleagues with weapons. He said he could not see how many men were hitting him because the blood was running down his face from the meat cleaver injury.
He said someone began shouting: “Times up, let's go,” and the intruders all scattered, leaving in cars, vans and a cattle truck. Mr Graham said he tried to get up, but his legs felt numb.
He said he managed to walk to the front door of the house but then collapsed and lost consciousness. He said a fireman woke him and he was brought by ambulance to Sligo General Hospital.
Under cross-examination, Mr Graham agreed that in his statement to gardaí made days after the incident in Falsk he never said he was in the kitchen.
Patrick McGrath SC, defending Mr Sweeney, put it to the witness that in his statement: “You described being at front door, hit as people came through, pushed into the living room, met by intruders that came in through the back door, one had a chainsaw, you were then taken out the back door and met the man with the meat cleaver.”
The witness agreed and accepted that none of his evidence given to the jury about events in the kitchen appeared in his statement.
He also agreed that he told gardaí in 2018 that the man with the chainsaw was wearing a check shirt and had a scarf over his face and mouth. He agreed that in the body-cam footage the man with the chainsaw does not have a check shirt and or a scarf over his face and mouth.
Mr McGrath put it to the witness that the man he identified in his statement as having a chainsaw cannot be the man in the footage.
Mr Graham replied: “Everything was happening so fast. I had multiple images going through my head.”
Mr McGrath put it to him that his statement to gardaí was made closer to events and was more likely to be closer to the truth and that in that statement, he did not describe any events in the kitchen.
“You were not in the kitchen on that night,” counsel said, to which the witness disagreed.
The trial continues before Judge Martina Baxter and a jury.