By Sonya McLean
A man armed himself with a knife when he burgled the house of a woman he had recently met on Tinder, a court has heard.
Graham Armstrong (38) and the woman, who owned the Dublin home, matched on Tinder and after Armstrong initiated contact, they agreed to meet in her home.
She later told gardaí that he stayed for about an hour and she found him to be “nice and normal”.
Armstrong told her he would like to see her again and later made contact through her friend, claiming that he believed he had left his bank card in her home.
The woman told her friend that she was fairly confident he had not left the card behind but she checked anyway and messaged later to confirm there was no card there.
The following day she returned home having been out at the shops for ten minutes.
She noticed a draught in the house and checked to see she had not left the front door open.
Garda Joanne Browne said the woman then noticed a shadow before she was pushed.
She could see the intruder was Armstrong before he grabbed her by the arm and held a knife above her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t give him money.
Armstrong put the knife to the woman’s neck and pulled her into the living room before she handed over her bag containing her passport, €150 and other cards.
He had already taken her mobile phone.
She contacted the friend who had been in contact with Armstrong and on her advice she called the gardaí.
That friend later got a message from Armstrong saying that he would give the woman “back her stuff for €3,000”.
The friend advised Armstrong not to message her again and told him the gardaí had been contacted.
The court heard that the previous August, Armstrong had mugged a 75-year-old woman just outside her home after the woman was returning from a visit to a friend.
The woman later told gardaí she heard footsteps running up behind her before a man shouted “stay there, stay there, stay there”. He then grabbed for her handbag.
She was determined to hold onto it but let go when she feared she would be hurt. Armstrong then ran away.
Armstrong of Moyola Court, Lower Churchtown, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery of the woman on August 3, 2020 and burglary of the woman’s home on November 27, 2021.
He has 68 previous convictions, 20 of which were dealt with in the Circuit Court for theft, burglary, assault, possession of weapons, road traffic offences, public order and criminal damage offences.
Gda Browne told Diana Stuart BL prosecuting, that Armstrong was easily tracked down for the burglary as he had used his own phone number in his communication with the victim’s friend.
He also messaged five days after the burglary to inform the woman that he had left her property in McDonalds on Grafton Street, in Dublin. The gardaí followed this up and the woman’s cards and passport were recovered but her mobile phone and the cash were not.
In relation to the earlier robbery Armstrong was spotted crouched down in a nearby wooded area, minutes after the attack. Gardai gave chase and he was caught. He still had the woman’s bag with him, which was returned to her.
Fiona Murphy SC, defending, said her client was ashamed of his behaviour in relation to the burglary and offers his apologies to the woman.
He had a cocaine addiction that “he is trying to get over”, counsel said.
She said his mother died in 2016 and he is “still not over that” as he was very close to her.
He has been with his partner since they were 15 years old and they have three children together including a young baby.
“She stands by him as he is a good supportive partner who provides for his family,” Ms Murphy said.
She said he has not got to spend much time with his new baby due to his remand in custody.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Armstrong to two years for the robbery and a consecutive three-year term for the burglary, after commenting that he thought a headline sentence of eight years would be appropriate.
He accepted that there had been “no gratuitous violence” used on the 75-year-old woman.
“He wanted the bag and there was a struggle which led to her being on the ground”.
He acknowledged that it would have been a very frightening experience for the victim.
Judge Nolan described the burglary as “more insidious” noting that he had returned to the woman’s home, confronted her with a knife and made certain threats.
He said it was a “very serious crime to enter somebody’s house in this way and to behave in this way when confronted”.
He noted that the crimes were “easily detected as there was no great planning to them”.