Men jailed after holding baby at knifepoint during robbery

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Stranmillis Gardens

Two men have been jailed for four years after a robbery in which a six-month-old baby was held at knifepoint.

Belfast Crown Court heard the child's mother begged for his life during the robbery at Stranmillis Gardens in south Belfast.

A judge said the victims were "subjected to a nightmarish ordeal".

Seamus Rooney, 30, and Tyrone Boyle, 26, had "spontaneously hatched [their plan] in the middle of a drink and drug binge", he said.

Both Boyle, with a north Belfast hostel address, and Rooney, of St Dympnas Park in Downpatrick, had previously pleaded guilty to robbing the family of phones, computers and cash on 23 November, 2017.

'Particularly reprehensible'

The judge said that "on any view... it was a distressing and traumatic experience - one of sheer terror", and although short in duration, "must have seemed like an eternity to the occupants".

He added that Rooney and Boyle's invasion was "particularly reprehensible" as the presence of an infant did nothing to deter their demands for cash and jewellery.

Although Boyle was identified as threatening the baby boy and Rooney as fighting with the child's grandmother, the judge said there was nothing to distinguish between them, ordering each to serve four years jail, followed by four years on supervised parole.

'Horror movie'

The prosecution told an earlier hearing the infant's mother begged for his life and that of her mother after the pair armed themselves with knives from a block in the kitchen of her home.

She said the scene was like something from "a horror movie" and told police Boyle had stood with a knife "pointing the blade down towards my son in his cot".

"I thought he was going to kill my baby," she said.

"I was on my knees pleading and begging [him] not to hurt my baby."

'Out of character'

A defence lawyer for Boyle said "this was going to be a simple burglary... opportunistic", but that the men lifted two knives once inside the house and that it ended in an absolute ordeal for those present.

Rooney's lawyer said it was accepted from the outset that it was an appalling case.

However, he added that while his client was "certainly out of his mind" on drink and drugs, it was out of character for a man "normally a quite placid individual".