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Two brothers each jailed for seven years for targeting parochial houses and robbing priests

The Maughans targeted the priest at St Michael the Archangel parish house in Finaghy Road North in Belfast. Picture byArthur Allison.

TWO brothers who embarked on a crime spree, which included breaking into parochial houses and robbing priests, were each jailed for seven years today.

A judge said he was jailing Owen John Maughan (38) and his brother John Patrick Maughan (32) for their "callous and sometimes brutal" behaviour last summer.

Judge Geoffery Miller QC spoke of the vulnerability of those they targeted, who offered little or no resistance.

The Maughans were arrested in July 2016 after police chased a stolen Hyundai from Saintfield Road in Co Down to the Seven Mile Straight in Co Antrim.

Belfast Crown Court heard the brothers were members of the Travelling Community and had both endured a very troubled childhood which included stealing food to feed themselves due to parental neglect.

Before he imposed the sentence, Judge Miller was told that between July 22 and 25 last year, the Maughans carried out three burglaries and attempted a further two.

Owen Maughan, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, was also sentenced for breaking into the Parochial House at St Peter's Catherdral on the Falls Road the year before, while John, from Birchdale Manor in Lurgan, admitted driving offences.

Owen Maughan and a co-accused stole cash and other personal items in July 2015.

During this break-in at St Peter's, a handgun was produced and Maughan held a 53-year old priest against his will for a period.

Personal items were stolen, along with £850 of weekend offerings from Mass.

Crown barrister Sam Magee said that during some of the burglaries committed last year, weapons were produced and violence was threatened.

Mr Magee revealed that on July 22 last year, the brothers bought a Vauxhall Corsa in Lurgan for £300. Later that day, the duo tried to break into St Colmcille's Church in Holywood.

They were caught on CCTV footage ringing the doorball and trying the door handles several times before leaving the area.

On the evening of July 22, they targeted St Michael's in Finaghy. The 71-year old priest answered the door to the Maughans, who produced a black handgun.

The brothers proceeded to ransack several rooms, and made off with £80 and a set of keys.

The pair struck again later that night, this time breaking into the home of an elderly couple on Dungannon's Circular Road.

The 74-year old occupant answered and was pushed into the living room by the Maughans.

He and his 71-year old wife were told by the intruders "We are the IRA. Give us your money or we will shoot you" before their gun was cocked.

The robbers made off with money, jewellery and medals, with one of them felling the couple he needed money for drugs.

Two days later, on July 24, the pair tried to break into the Parochial House in Castlewellan. The priest heard the doorbell, then saw two men trying to break down the door. However the brothers left the scene empty-handed.

Around two hours later, they broke into a shop on Newcastle's Main Street but nothing was taken.

They struck again that night, when they forced their way into the Castlewellan home of three siblings.

A knife was produced, threats were issued and items they stole were recovered the following day, when they were arrested following a police chase.

Neither men co-operated with police, but later admitted to a series of charges including aggravated burglary. The brothers both have criminal records on both sides of the border.

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