A man who claimed to be a member of the notorious Westies gang told a terrified family he would get the gang to riddle their home with bullets and then petrol-bomb them.

Stephen Darby broke into the home of the family in Stranorlar, Co Donegal just days before last Christmas.

He was accompanied by another man and they went upstairs to the couple’s bedroom and terrorised them.

At one stage Darby, who has 83 previous convictions, picked up two small children under his arms and continued to make threats.

He told the couple that he was a member of the Clondalkin gang and that he would also have them shot in the back of the knees if they didn’t do what he said.

The male victim began to scuffle with Darby and the accused tripped and fell down the stairs and was knocked unconscious.

Gardai arrived at the house and he was taken to Letterkenny Garda station before being taken to Letterkenny University Hospital.

The other man with Darby, who claimed he had relatives in the house at Ardmiran Park, was also arrested.

Darby, who is originally from Dublin but who has been living in Donegal on and off, appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court charged where he pleaded guilty to burglary.

Barrister for Darby, Mr Peter Nolan, said his client had downed a bottle of whiskey and merely thought the other man was calling to the house to change his clothing.

However, when he arrived, the other man kicked the door in and began to shout at the terrified couple and their family.

Mr Nolan claimed his client was trying to calm matters down when he was pushed down the stairs and had little recollection of the events.

However, a victim impact statement from the terrified couple, who asked not to be identified, revealed their fear.

The woman said “It has changed my entire outlook on life, the way someone can make you feel so scared for your life and your loved ones. I was petrified.

“How an uninvited stranger with a knock on your door can come in and put myself and my family through this terrifying ordeal.

“The most hurtful part was when he reached for my boys. If the Gardai had been any later I dread to think what would have happened.

“I was always a very strong person but now I suffer from anxiety and pains in my chest. It just broke me.”

Barrister Nolan put his client in the witness box and Darby, whose previous convictions include firearms offences, burglary, robbery, escaping from lawful custody, assault, trespass and larceny, apologised to the family.

“I want to apologise to the xxxxxxxxxs. I let myself go and it was never my intention to do that. When I have drink, I don’t think,” he said.

His mother, Mrs Maureen Crowe, said her son had a terrible life and was beaten as a child by his father.

He was also put into St Joseph’s Christian Brothers School in Clonmel where she alleges that he was sexually abused.

Mr Nolan added that his suggestions that he was part of the Westies were just “fantasy.”

“He has an appalling record. He has been in prison in some shape or form for 35 of his 47 years of his life. If he was a prison officer he would be out on pension now.

“He has left a trail of disruption but this happened in the throws of alcohol consumption.

“I am aksing that a different way can be found rather than a prison sentence as it simply does nothing to help my client from reoffending,” he said.

Judge John Aylmer agreed to adjourn the case until next July and ordered both psychiatric and probation reports on Darby.



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