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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 25 June, 2019

'I went to rob it as a joke. I didn't mean it': Post office raider jailed for two and a half years

Judge Martina Baxter said the offence was a “despicable, cowardly act” perpetrated on an elderly man.

The raid took place on Botanic Road in Glasnevin.
The raid took place on Botanic Road in Glasnevin.
Image: Google Maps

A DUBLIN MAN who tried to raid a post office “as a joke” to get back into prison has been jailed for two and a half years.

John Wheeler (49) of Barnamore Park, Finglas pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of attempting to rob a post office at Botanic Road, Dublin, on 13 October 2017.

The court heard Wheeler brandished a sweeping brush inside a plastic bag during the incident.

Garda Barry Brennan said the 72-year-old post office owner had returned from a break and had gone to check a safe at the back of the premises when he heard a banging noise coming from the store front.

When he returned to the front, he saw Wheeler banging on the counter with a plastic bag concealing a two foot object that the owner believed was a gun. Wheeler told him to “put the fucking money” in a bag he held in his other hand.

The owner told Wheeler he would get money from the back of the post office and once there, he pressed a panic button. He observed Wheeler leave the premises a minute later and the owner’s son arrived shortly after.

Garda Brennan told Ann Rowland BL, prosecuting, that he arrived on the scene and reviewed CCTV footage. The owner’s son recognised Wheeler as a man he had passed sitting outside a nearby shop.

Brennan discovered Wheeler in a barbershop next to this store. He invited him outside and asked Wheeler if he had recently been in the post office.

“I went to rob the place as a joke,” Wheeler said. “I didn’t mean it though.”

A plastic bag containing a sweeping brush was found abandoned in a nearby bin. Wheeler denied that he had had the brush with him during his robbery attempt.

“Show me this fucking CCTV or I’ll smash it over your head,” he said.

The court heard Wheeler has 55 previous convictions. These include assault, robbery, theft, larceny, forgery, dangerous driving, and drunk driving matters.

Marc Thompson BL, defending, said that Wheeler had been primarily motivated by a desire to be placed into custody again and that he had been released shortly before making the robbery attempt.

He said that his client had had a long-standing drug addiction and that he wished to state for the record that he had not cursed while attempting to commit the robbery.

Judge Martina Baxter noted that the offence was a “despicable, cowardly act” perpetrated on an elderly man who was alone and vulnerable in the shop.

She said the fact Wheeler was institutionalised was not an excuse for his behaviour and added that at some point he would have to be released into the community.

She took into account Wheeler’s co-operation, early guilty plea and his decent family background.

“He is missing out on the milestones of normal existence”, she said before imposing a four-year sentence with the final 18 months suspended.

She said the suspended period was for 24 months, subject to Wheeler engaging with the Probation Service and co-operating with it to complete a housing application.

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About the author:

Brion Hoban and Aoife Nic Ardghail

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