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Man who kidnapped and threatened to kill former wife jailed for five years

William O’Donnell pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning and threatening to kill his former wife.

A MAN WHO kidnapped his ex-wife, drove her around the North for 24 hours to evade gardaí and threatened to kill them both has been sentenced to five years in prison.

William O’Donnell (24) of Broadmeadow Castle, Ashbourne, Co Meath pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to falsely imprisoning and threatening to kill his former wife Brigid Reilly on 20 September, 2021.

The court heard that the couple married in 2016 and that it had been a difficult and violent relationship. In February 2019 Reilly left O’Donnell annulled the marriage.

Judge Martin Nolan said it was a very serious offence to have forced the victim into a car and deprived her of her liberty, particularly where she was terrified for her well-being and her life. 

“I think he knew what he was doing,” said Judge Nolan, adding that it was terrifying for Reilly to be dealing with an irrational person who put her into a car against her will.

Inspector Niamh Guckian told Emmet Nolan BL, prosecuting, that the incident began when Ms Reilly was on her way to use a sunbed in Naas, Co Kildare with her friend when she saw her ex-husband’s car drive by.

When she later came out of the sunbed salon she saw O’Donnell’s car drive up onto the path and heard him shouting something.

O’Donnell got out of the car and began pushing Reilly further and further towards the car, eventually lifting her up and shoving her into the back seat.

Reilly was screaming and shouting and tried to get out of the car but the child lock was on the door and O’Donnell drove off.

She told him that if he let her go, she wouldn’t take it any further, but O’Donnell started recording a video taunting Reilly’s father and saying, “I have your daughter.”

O’Donnell started driving on back roads towards the North, telling Reilly that once he got out of “the Free State”, the police wouldn’t be able to do anything.

Reilly later made a statement to gardaí that O’Donnell gave her no food and only let her out of the car once to go to the toilet on the side of the road.

The court heard that Reilly kept screaming and shouting and begging O’Donnell to let her out.

She said O’Donnell was really angry and said his life wasn’t worth living and that if he couldn’t have her, no one could.

He said he would ruin her reputation within the Travelling community and that if she made a scene, he would drive them both “under a lorry”.

The court heard that O’Donnell drove for three or four hours and stopped in a car park in Enniskillen where he jumped into the backseat.

Reilly started screaming and O’Donnell said he just wanted to talk, but Reilly told him it was over and she didn’t want to reconcile.

She later told gardaí that when O’Donnell’s back was turned, she tried to run but he ran after her, grabbed her and lifted her back into the car.

Two armed PSNI members saw them and O’Donnell swore to Reilly that if she said nothing, he would bring her home. Reilly said that out of fear, she gave the PSNI members a false name and they found nothing wrong.

She said that when O’Donnell started driving again it became apparent that he wasn’t bringing her home, so she began screaming and crying. 

He rang his mother periodically to see if the gardaí had become involved and told Ms Reilly that he wasn’t going home and “that the minute he hit the Free State, he’d be locked up”, the court heard.

Reilly said O’Donnell’s mother was encouraging him to come home and that gardaí made several attempts to contact him by phone.

The following morning at about 8am O’Donnell apologised to Reilly, pleaded with her not to go to gardaí and started driving back into the jurisdiction.

O’Donnell was stopped at a garda checkpoint set up to locate him. He let Reilly out of the car but refused a garda request to stop.

He drove off and was ultimately arrested 24 hours after he had abducted his ex-wife. O’Donnell co-operated in interview, but strenuously denied doing anything wrong.

The court heard that Reilly declined to attend court or file a victim impact statement but that there has been no reconciliation and that she remains very much in fear of O’Donnell.

O’Donnell has 66 previous convictions, all in the District Court, including several thefts and hit-and-runs. He was on bail for other offences at the time of this incident.

David Fleming BL, defending O’Donnell, said his client had engaged in a “self-indulgent, immature and pig-headed act”.

He added that O’Donnell had a “deluded, archaic view of marriage” despite the very final steps that Brigid Reilly had taken to have the marriage annulled.

“He has clear problems with impulse control,” said Fleming, adding that his client has since apologised profusely to the court, the gardaí, Reilly and her family.

The court heard that O’Donnell has been in custody since last September where he is on an enhanced prisoner régime.

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