A hijacker who told a terrified taxi driver “we are from the Continuity IRA – this is revenge for Michael McGoldrick” while shoving a gun into his back was handed a four year sentence today (Friday).
Ordering 35-year-old Damien McMahon to serve half that in jail and half on licence, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said given the references to the taxi driver who was “murdered by a loyalist assassin…understandably the victim thought he was going to be murdered and ran from the scene”.
“This isn’t a victimless crime Mr McMahon,” the judge told the defendant, “your abhorrent behaviour has had a profound effect on the victim”.
At an earlier hearing McMahon, from Pinebank, Tullygally, Craigavon, entered guilty pleas to offences of hijacking, robbery and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence on 6 December last year.
The court heard how McMahon was collected in the early hours, directing the driver to a number of different locations before being taken close to his home and it was there that he threatened the driver with an air soft pistol which according to expert reports, looked just like a Glock handgun.
Pushing the gun into his victim’s back, McMahon declared “we are taking this car for the Continuity IRA – this is revenge for Michael McGoldrick.”
In July 1996, Mr McGoldrick was working as a taxi driver in his hometown of Lurgan when he was lured to a lonely spot by loyalist gunmen and shot in the back of the head five times during the height of the Drumcree crisis.
Terrorist Clifford McKeown was later convicted of his murder and during the trial, it was claimed the infamous killing was carried out as a “birthday present” for notorious LVF leader Billy Wright.
In court today, Judge Lynch said there was “no suggestion” that McMahon was involved “in any paramilitary activity in any way, adding that he accepted the offence had been “amateurish” given the fact he gave his own name when booking the taxi and was recorded on the victim’s dash cam.
While McMahon refused to answer police questions during interviews, he was able to direct cops to where the gun was which, along with his guilty pleas, was a mitigating feature.
Judge Lynch said that robberies of small businesses had been “quite properly condemned by this court,” telling McMahon that taking all matters into account, he felt a four year sentence was appropriate.
He also imposed an extra three months to be served consecutively as the incident put McMahon in breach of a suspended sentence.