A 34-year-old man on the run from police for 14 years is now back behind bars, after he was caught hiding from police underneath a pillow having scammed Gumtree users to steal vans.
Thomas McDonagh, of Amblecote Road, Lewisham, targeted two separate victims who had posted Gumtree advertisements for a ‘man with van’. McDonagh arranged to meet them for their services and sprayed them with CS Spray before stealing one man’s van and attempting to steal the other.
McDonagh was released on licence from HMP Hollesley Bay Colony in 2000, but it was revoked after he breached the terms and conditions. He failed to return and was wanted on a recall to prison before finally being caught in March by officers from Lewisham.
On Friday 8 August, McDonagh was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court to four years and six months imprisonment after pleading guilty to robbery, assault with intent to commit robbery, assault by beating and handling stolen goods.
The first victim of his van robbery scam was 29 years old and advertised himself and his van for hire on Gumtree. McDonagh made arrangements to meet with the victim in January 2014 under the pretence that he wanted to use his services.
Once there, Mcdonagh assaulted the victim by spraying him with CS Spray in order to steal his van. The van was later found in South London having had its number plates changed. There were numerous reports that the driver of the van had caused traffic collisions, and one road user stated that McDonagh had exited the van and physically assaulted him.
A few days later, another victim rang police claiming that he too had been assaulted with CS Spray by a ‘customer’ from Gumtree who had tried to steal his van.
Police traced the IP address from where he used Gumtree and on February 21 were greeted by a woman who claimed other people must have been using her internet connection as it had no password protection.
Further enquiries led to officers to return to the address on March 2, and they entered the address to find a man in a bedroom hiding underneath a pillow. Checks revealed that he was McDonagh (despite him initially claiming it was mistaken identity, he then revealed that McDonagh was his real name).
He was arrested for having absconded from prison, robbery, and attempted robbery on Mayeswood Road. McDonagh was also found in possession of car keys, which opened another van parked outside his home address. It was discovered that this van had also been stolen from a victim in Croydon by knife point.
DC Steph Pow, investigating officer Lewisham Serious Acquisitive Crime Unit said:”McDonagh evaded capture for a number of years and thought that he would never be caught, but we finally caught up with him and he is now back behind bars where he belongs.
“Far from trying to disguise himself or create a new life for himself, McDonagh continued to commit more offences whist on the run and thought when he was caught he could give us a false name. I hope this sends out a very strong message to anyone who thinks they have got away with it that they will be caught. I want to thank my colleagues, as this was very much a team effort and we all worked together to finally bring McDonagh to justice.”