Knife-wielding Co Down burglars given probation

editorial image

Two burglars who ransacked a house and confronted the owner with knives during a burglary have been handed down three years on probation.

But David Gracie and James Jack McGrugan were told by a judge not to view the probation order as a “slap on the wrists”, warning them any further offending would see them returned to court.

Gracie, 20, of St Mary’s Lodge, Dover, in England had pleaded guilty at Downpatrick Crown Court to burglary and two counts of wounding, while co-accused McGrugan, 19, of Gloucester Avenue, Donaghadee, Co Down, pleaded guilty to burglary, wounding and attempted wounding.

The court heard that the owner of a house at Townhall Lane, Donaghadee, returned home on December 27, 2015 and found his front door had been smashed in.

When he went inside, he discovered the house had been “ransacked’’ with two sofas overturned and a “knife stuck in one of them’’. Food material had been strewn all over the hall and into the living room.

The court was told that when he went into the kitchen he was confronted by “two intruders both of whom were armed with knives’’. He recognised one as McGrugan.

One of the intruders came at him, swinging a knife at him, and he told police that he feared he was going to be severely injured. During the confrontation he sustained a small knife wound to his bicep.

The two males then fled the property and were spotted by a passer-by who gave chase to them as they ran towards the nearby beach.

The court heard one of the males shouted at the pursuing man: “Northern Ireland Special Forces.”

But, said the prosecutor, that had no effect on the man who disarmed the two males of their knives and subdued them until police arrived.

Police later recovered a bag which was found to contain a Sky box stolen from the Townhall Lane property.

Judge Piers Grant said but for the defendants’ clear records and mental health issues a “significant and substantial custodial sentence’’ would have been imposed.