“A DANGEROUS and violent criminal” who broke into the convent at Laurel Hill and was armed with a screwdriver told the nuns to ‘lock their doors and not to worry’ as he was there to catch the intruder.
Gary Culhane, 36, of Hyde Avenue, who has 93 previous convictions, has now been sentenced to four years in prison for the burglary at the Marie Reparatrice Convent, Laurel Hill Avenue on the Southill Circular Road; possession of a screwdriver and assaulting a police officer on April 1 last.
Limerick Circuit Court heard that Culhane - who was most recently sentenced to four years in prison for biting part of a Garda’s ear off - broke into the convent at around 2.10am with another male who has not been identified.
Six retired nuns, aged from their late 70s to early 90s, were living in the self-contained quarters there at the time, when one of the nuns heard a noise and after leaving the bathroom saw a male with a screwdriver in his hand.
Another male was standing behind the other, and the accused was alleged to have told her that they were security men sent by the gardai to catch the intruders.
“Don’t worry, keep your door locked,” Culhane, a father of one, said.
She found that a €5 note that been taken from her coat.
Another nun heard her bedroom door open and saw a male with a flash-light in her room. When she got up and tried to open the door, she found that someone was closing the door shut at the other side.
A man wearing dark clothes and a beanie hat was later identified to be the accused.
The second male managed to escape by climbing a 12ft high galvanised gate, but Culhane attempted to stab Garda Eoghan Linnane three times with the scredriver as he tried to flee the scene.
However, the garda refused to release his grip and sprayed pepper spray into his eyes. The garda received multiple injuries and has only recently returned to full duty.
His defence, Michael Collins, said he had taken some tablets that night and was “out of his head”, in his client’s words. He has since written an apology to the nuns for the distress caused, and they in turn have offered him their prayers, especially that he may overcome his drug addictions.
Judge Carroll Moran commended Garda Linnane for his “courage and tenacity in keeping hold of the accused, notwithstanding being attacked with a screwdiver”.
He also commended the nun for showing “a degree of forgiveness, understanding and compassion for the accused”, which he said he doesn’t see often in the criminal court.
He has 27 previous convictions for burglary, 10 for larceny, and nine for criminal damage, amongst others.
A two-year suspended sentence on other charges has been activated, and he received a four year sentence for these offences, half of which has been suspended for a period of six years on his own good behaviour.