Burglar stabbed man after being found hiding in daughter’s bedroom

June 30, 2022

A young burglar stabbed a homeowner after he was caught hiding in his daughter’s bedroom.

Fionn Ponsonby appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at the home of Joe and Sandra McGonagle at Cullion, Letterkenny on November 17th, 2018.

The court heard how the 22-year-old was caught when the family’s pet dog began barking.

Mr McGonagle went to investigate and found the window of his daughter’s bedroom open and a man crouching down behind her bed.

Mr McGonagle wrestled with the burglar after Ponsonby had produced a penknife  and tried to “stick” Mr McMonagle in the arm.

He began to shout at the accused “Drop the knife, drop the knife” as he tried to restrain the burglar before eventually pinning him down and holding him until Gardai arrived.

Sandra McMonagle was described as “absolutely terrified” as the incident unfolded.

A number of items were subsequently discovered outside the window including a torch, a Samsung phone, a Nintendo, and assorted jewellery.

A number of empty cans of Tennents Lager and Carlsberg and a nearly empty bottle of wine.

Ponsonby was arrested, taken to Letterkenny Garda station and initially claimed he had entered the wrong house and fell asleep thinking it was his.

He later admitted that he knew it was not his home.

Garda Genivieve Sherlock gave evidence of arresting Ponsonby whom the court was told had been homeless and was taking drink and drugs.

She agreed with Ponsonby’s barrister, Mr Peter Nolan, that his client was a “lost soul.”

Ponsonby, a father-of-two who now had an address at Sandy Row in Castlefin, took to the witness stand to apologise to Mrs McGonagle and her daughter who were in court.

He said “I’d just like to apologise and say sorry for scaring you and your daughter. It’s not something that has ever happened before.

“I don’t know how to make amends but I’m awfully sorry for what happened on that night.”

The defendant told Mr Nolan that he had been living in an abandoned house at the time that he sometimes shared with “drug taking friends”.

He had not been living with his parents since he was fifteen and had left the family home.

He told the court he had been in a relationship and had two children but they had been taken into care. “I can’t see them until I’m sober.”

The court was told that Ponsonby said he had spent four days at the White Oaks addiction treatment centre but had been discharged as a result of having drugs in his system.

He had been born in Australia where his mother was from. His father was from Donegal but his parents had broken up when he was six or seven years of age.

He said he had been bullied at primary school and revealed that he had been sexually abused at the age of eight.

“You’re at the end of the road. The next stage is Castlerea Prison,’ Mr Nolan warned him.

Addressing Judge John Aylmer, defence counsel said his client was the eldest of seven children.

The accused had been beaten up while living on the streets and had been badly assaulted with an iron bar. He had become addicted to cannabis and heroin.

“He has no family so to speak of,” said Mr Nolan. “The picture that presents itself is very little in the way of relief or hope for Mr Ponsonby.

“He does not have emotional maturity and where would he get it from?,” defence counsel demanded.

His client had brought “great terror” on the McMonagle family. But he was not a violent man and he, Mr Nolan, found him to be a gentle individual.

He had to deal with his addictions and look to complete the course in the White Oaks centre. In this respect, defence counsel asked Judge Aylmer to “take a chance” on his client and allow him to undergo his treatment.

Referring to the incident of aggravated burglary, Judge Alymer said the accused had been in confrontation with the homeowners but fortunately Mr McMonagle had been able to disarm him and had not suffered much of an injury.

He noted that he had come from a difficult background and had made full admissions while entering a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Judge Alymer said he was going to take time to consider his verdict and intended to put the matter back to the October sitting of the Circuit Court.

He hoped the accused would take the opportunity to undertake the rehabilitation process but said he was still considering a custodial element, stating that a “significant period in custody” might bring the accused to his senses.

Judge Alymer said he hoped by October concrete evidence would be put before him that the defendant had remained drug free and had re-engaged with the services at White Oaks.

“The ball’s in Mr Ponsonby’s court,’ Mr Nolan maintained.