‘Neighbour from hell’ threatened to ‘burn children’ and ‘nail them to the floorboards’

September 26, 2023

A man who terrorised his housing estate in Co Donegal threatened to burn his neighbours’ children and ‘nail them to the floorboards.’

‘Neighbour from hell’ Carl Ryan was sentenced to 14 months in prison after being charged with a series of vicious threats in Buncrana over a 13-month period in 2019 and 2020.

Ryan, who has 44 previous convictions, appeared at Letterkenny District Court by video link from Castlerea Prison.

The 55-year-old Dubliner and former heroin addict is currently serving a five-and-a-half year prison sentence and is due for release in 2026.

On August 15, 2020, John McLaughlin and his son Pauric observed Ryan in the Burwood estate and he began verbally abusing them.

Ryan told Mr McLaughlin that he would kill him and slash his tyres. After telling Mr McLaughlin that he would ‘never sleep comfortably in your bed again’, he threatened to burn his children, knee cap them and nail them to the floorboards.

Ryan also threatened to burn Mr McLaughlin’s house down.

It was one of several incidents Ryan was charged with, details of which were outlined by Sergeant Jim Collins.

On July 14, 2019, Gardai attended the scene of a row between neighbours at Burwood, Buncrana. As Gardai were leaving, Ryan began walking across the green area. He shouted abuse at Gardai and stuck the fingers up to officers before he was arrested.

On October 6, 2019, Ryan went to the door of a person a number of doors away.

A woman came to the door holding a 12-month old baby in her arms. Ryan was drunk and attempted to aggressively push past the woman, who told him that the Gardai were on their way.

After attempting to open another door at the side of the house, Ryan returned to the front door and tried to gain access to the property. Ryan fled to his own home, but was arrested by Gardai a short time later.

On August 13, 2020, John McLaughlin observed Ryan videoing a house at Burwood, Buncrana. Mr McLaughlin became concerned and began to record Ryan, who told the man that he would burn his house down. Ryan told Mr McLaughlin: “You’ll be gone out of here before I will.”

On August 17, 2020, Pauric McLaughlin was washing a friend’s tractor when Ryan approached and threatened to ‘fucking kill’ him. Ryan proceeded to abuse and threatened Mr McLaughlin further, with the incident captured on a mobile phone.

In light of guilty pleas, a harassment charge against Ryan was withdrawn.

Mr Rory O’Brien, solicitor for Ryan, said there was an ‘element of tit-for-tat’ in some but not all of the incidents. “In some cases, he reacted incorrectly and wrongly,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien said his client’s health has deteriorated since his incarceration and has had to have a leg amputated.

“He agrees not to come back to Buncrana,” Mr O’Brien added. “Upon his release, he will certainly not be back in Burwood.”

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham sentenced Ryan to eight months for one of the offences and six months for another with the sentences to run consecutively. The other matters were marked as taken into consideration by Judge Cunningham.

In May 2022, Ryan was given a five-and-a-half year sentence after causing havoc on the Burwood estate.

He appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court charged with assaulting 67-year-old Peter Deeney.

Mr Deeney had complained that Ryan was playing music too loud at his house.

Ryan came out of the house and struck Mr Deeney with one punch knocking him in and out of consciousness and forcing him to be hospitalised with facial injuries.

Finding him guilty and sentencing him to five and a half years in total, Circuit Court Judge John Aylmer remarked that it was only a matter of luck that Ryan was not before a higher court on a more serious charge.

“We know it’s only a matter of chance that someone survives such an assault,” he said.

Ryan was also charged with demanding money with menaces from the landlord of the house he was renting – telling him that he wanted €1,000 to move out or he would burn the house down.

The court was played a twelve minute audio message of a telephone conversation between Ryan and the landlord of his house William Baldrick.

Ryan is heard accusing Mr Baldrick of “blackening” his name with Donegal County Council and leaving him unable to find another house.

He then says he will leave the house if he gets €1,000 but if he does not that he will burn the house down and also burn Mr Baldrick’s own home down.

“You’re going to have no house. I’m going to burn it down. I’m going to burn this house and your house. I hope you have that on tape. I’m f***ing genuine,” he said.

He then says how he will fight Mr Baldrick through the courts and how it will cost him €30,000 in legal fees.