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Paradise residents describe terrifying home invasion

The courtroom in St. John’s Thursday where a trial is taking place for Tyler Donahue, 24 (sitting, at left), (in prisoners’ dock, from left) Gary Hennessey, 33, Mitchell Nippard, 26, and Abdifatah Mohamed, 28, who face numerous charges in connection with four home invasions in February 2017.
The courtroom in St. John’s Thursday where a trial is taking place for Tyler Donahue, 24 (sitting, at left), (in prisoners’ dock, from left) Gary Hennessey, 33, Mitchell Nippard, 26, and Abdifatah Mohamed, 28, who face numerous charges in connection with four home invasions in February 2017. - Glen Whiffen

A husband and wife testifying at a home invasion trial in St. John’s Thursday described a terrifying night a year ago where they and others in their home and shed were confronted by armed men who bound their hands with tie wraps and aggressively demanded money from their son.

Daphne Crant said she was taking a bath the evening of Feb. 8, 2017 at her home on Milton Road in Paradise when her son, Michael, knocked on the bathroom door and told her to come out “right now.”

When she opened the door she saw two masked men standing on either side of her son, and one of them was holding a gun.

She said at first she thought it was a joke, but seeing the expression on her son’s face, and hearing his voice tremble, she soon realized it was real.

The men took them to a downstairs bedroom, where her son’s girlfriend was lying on the bed with her hands bound by plastic tie wraps.

“She was very upset and crying,” Crant said.

Crant was placed on the bed next to her son’s girlfriend and her hands were bound with tie wraps also, and her feet were tied to her son’s girlfriend’s feet with an extension cord.

“They said they wanted money,” Crant said. “They kept saying if you co-operate we won’t hurt you.”

Crant said the men were continually demanding money from her son and hitting him in the back of the head with the barrel of the gun. They also emptied nightstands, closets and cabinets.

When they left the bedroom with Michael, Crant said, she could hear them rummaging through other areas of the house.

“They told us not to call the police,” she said. “If we did, Michael would get hurt.

“They told us to stay still for half an hour and someone would come back to free us.”

Sometime later she heard her husband calling out to her. He came downstairs and freed them, she said. The men seemed to have left the house, and Michael was gone, too, she said.

Crant said that she, her husband, her son’s girlfriend and one of Michael’s friends left the home in her car and drove around, not sure what to do.

“They had Michael,” she said, noting that before they drove away in her car, her husband went to get his rifle.

The trial is being held in provincial court before Judge Mike Madden.

The accused are Abdifatah Mohamed, 28, Tyler Donahue, 24, Gary Hennessey, 33, and Mitchell Nippard, 26.

The four are facing a slew of charges in connection with four home invasions in February 2017, during which victims were reportedly tied up, assaulted and robbed. Nippard is also accused of shooting two dogs during the robberies, killing one.

A fifth man, 28-year-old Mohamed Salim, is also believed to have been involved, but was found dead March 3, 2017 in a quarry off the Trans-Canada Highway near Paradise. It is believed he died in the cold while attempting to escape from police.

When Crant’s husband, Ivan Crant, took the stand Thursday afternoon, he said he had been in the shed that evening playing darts with Michael and “four or five” of his friends.

He said two men came into the shed, one with a full white, rubber mask on and who was pointing a gun, and the other with his face partially covered. A third man came in behind them.

“They told us to get on the floor,” he said. “They put tie wraps around our wrists … and took electric tape and taped our mouths up.”

When one of the intruders was placing the tie wraps around his wrists, he cut them a little, Ivan Crant said.

“He said, ‘Sorry.’”

They were then all told to lie flat, face down on the floor.

Ivan Crant described the gun as being a silver “pistol type, probably a .22-calibre.”

“They were asking Michael for money and Michael said he had no money.”

Ivan Crant said two of the men took Michael from the shed, while the other intruder stood over them with a knife, “clanging it off something steel.”

They soon came back with Michael and were hitting him and still demanding money, Crant said, and threatened to use a torch that was in the shed to burn the house down if Michael didn’t give them money.

“They told (Michael) if he got no money they would kill him,” he said.

Crant said this time the three intruders left the shed with Michael again, but before leaving told the bound men to stay on the floor for half an hour, and someone would return to untie them.

After enough time passed, Crant said, the men in the shed got up and freed each other. He grabbed a metal shovel and, along with one of Michael’s friends, went to the house, where he found his wife and Michael’s girlfriend and untied them.

“At that point I was scared to death,” Ivan Crant said. “I didn’t call the police in case they’d kill Michael.”

Both of the Crants described the men as about six feet tall, and that at least one of them had what sounded like a mainland accent.

Items stolen from the home included jewelry, a camera and some cash.

Daphne Crant said one of the accused, Nippard, had been to their house one time prior to the home invasion. During that visit, she said, Nippard and Michael had been in the shed and they came inside the house and asked her — a registered nurse — if she would change a bandage on Nippard’s arm, which she did.

Mohamed, the only of the accused who is representing himself during the trial, asked Daphne Crant if she recognized anyone from the night of the home invasion to be in the courtroom Thursday, to which she replied, “No.”

The trial continues Friday.

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