A 12 YEAR-OLD boy ran through the back alleyways of O'Malley Park with a bucket containing two guns and 49 rounds of ammunition following an early-morning shooting in Southill in October 2009, Limerick Circuit Court has heard.
A 27 year-old man was seriously injured at around 8am on October 28, 2009, after being shot in the back with a 9mm gun.
Two men appeared before the court this Thursday charged with possession of the firearms for unlawful and suspicious purposes, but a third man is due before the court for trial in February next.
Anthony McDonnell, 62, with an address at 421 O'Malley Park, and Philip Scanlon, 38, with an address at Cahernahalla, Doon, were charged with unlawful possession of the firearms, but neither are in any way implicated in the shooting and have no criminal backgrounds.
Gardai said the case presented as an "exceptional set of circumstances".
The court heard that the boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was spotted on CCTV footage running along a back alleyway holding a white object.
He went to the house of one of the accused, Mr McDonnell, whom he looked upon as a "gran-uncle" type figure and had stayed with from time to time due to his own family background.
Mr McDonnell was awoken from his bed to find the boy standing outside his door, with the bucket containing the contraband.
"The young lad knocked on the door, I don't know what time it was, but we were in bed," Mr McDonnell told gardai that day.
Inside the bucket were a a Glock pistol and two rounds of ammunition, a Sig-Sauer semi-automatic and 15 rounds of ammunition, and a further 32 rounds of ammunition in a sock.
He took the bucket from the boy and called his son-in-law, Mr Scanlon, who was having breakfast in the Horse & Hound and urged him to come up to the house to "collect something".
The father of three "had no idea what it was about" when he drove up to Southill, but he made the "snap decision and took the bucket", his defence Mark Nicholas told the court.
Asked by gardai if he would have taken it had it not been his father-in-law, he replied: "No".
He then brought the items to his house in Doon, which "terrified" his family.
It would prove to be "a disastrous decision on the spur of the moment", Judge Carroll Moran said.
A search warrant was obtained to search Mr Scanlon's house on November 7, where the items were found in a garage next to the family home.
Detective Garda Patrick Whelan, Roxboro garda station, told the court that Mr Scanlon pointed to the bucket and said "That's what you're looking for."
Mr Scanlon was brought to Roxboro garda station, made full admissions and was charged on November 7.The firearms were sent for ballistic analysis at Garda headquarters, where it was identified they matched the shell casings found at the scene of the shooting. Both guns were successfully discharged by ballistics experts, while the serial number on the Glock semi-automatic pistol had been erased.
Mr McDonnell, a father of six, had never come to his attention of gardai before and his defence Anthony Sammon, SC, said his client felt "physically sick" over what had happened.
His son-in-law, Mr Scanlon, also had no previous convictions. A self-employed painter and decorator, he had employed young people from Southill "who might otherwise have gone on the different road if he didn't give them a good start."
Gardai also seized his mobile phone, but it was found that it contained "ordinary connections of charity workers."
Described as an "inspirational" figure and someone who has "community spirit" in spades, Mr Scanlon has worked tirelessly raising money for the Bluebell and Redhill schools for autistic children in Limerick, as well as for Down Syndrome and cancer services and the Bedford Row Project for families of prisoners.
Mr Nicholas said his client has also been involved in writing and producing songs for singers including Leanne Moore and Greg Ryan.
Judge Moran imposed a three-year sentence suspended for a period of three years on both men.
Each faced a 10-year prison sentence, but Judge Moran said it would have been unjust to impose even the minimum sentence of four years.
Furthermore, he said there would have been no case without Mr McDonnell's admissions.
Members of their families broke down in tears after the verdict was announced.
Gardai have been ordered to retain the firearms for the present time.