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27 Jun 2022

Man had Letterkenny shop assistant at knifepoint during robbery

The man, who appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court, also warned a customer not to contact Gardaí

Letterkenny court house.

Letterkenny courthouse.

A man held a Letterkenny shop assistant at knifepoint and warned a terrified customer not to call Gardaí.

Stephen Stokes pleaded guilty to a robbery at Kernan’s Spar, Lower Main Street, Letterkenny, on July 8, 2019.

Stokes, 29, of no fixed abode, was before Letterkenny Circuit Court on the charge. Stokes made off with €600 in cash and five boxes of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. Stokes is also charged with using force or putting Mark Hegarty in fear

Sergeant O’Connor told the court that Stokes entered the premises and waved a knife at Mr Hegarty, who was working in the shop.

“Give me the money, don’t f*** about, I know where you live,” Stokes told the frightened shop assistant.

Sergeant O’Connor said Mr Hegarty was ‘concerned for his safety’. He handed over the cash and Stokes demanded cigarettes.

“He (Stokes) pointed the knife and told him not to ring the Gardaí for at least half an hour,” Sergeant O’Connor said. “He pointed the knife at a customer and told them not to call the Gardai.”

Counsel for the State, Ms Patricia McLaughlin BL, said Stokes became ‘verbally abusive’ when arrested by Garda Morris. Stokes was arrested and detained at Letterkenny Garda station. He made no admissions even when shown CCTV footage

Some unopened boxes of cigarettes were recovered, but the cash was not located.

Barrister for Stokes, Mr Sean McGee BL, said his client’s early life was ‘not idyllic’.

“He suffered a severely traumatic experience when he was seven and only spoke about it when he was 24 or 25,” Mr McGee said. “He carries that with him, but he does’t attempt to use that as leverage.”

Stokes’ parents were in court and Mr McGee said the accused had the ‘firm resolve’ of his family. Stokes disengaged from full-time education in his mid-teens, Mr McGee said.

Mr McGee added that Stokes has become ‘really into’ education since going into custody and recently completely a course in psychology. 

Stokes, who is a father-of-two from previous relationships, took to the stand to apologise for the incident.

“I was in a bad place at the time,” he said. “I even dream about it some nights. I want to apologise to everyone involved. I will do my best to make up for it.”

Stokes has previous convictions including for possession of drugs, possession of drugs with intent to sell or supply, theft and the production of an article in the course of a dispute.

Judge John Aylmer adjourned the matter until Wednesday for finalisation.

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