By Liam Heylin
An 87-year-old Corkwoman who saved to buy presents for her grandchildren had to fend off a shoplifter who tried to pickpocket her purse — and yesterday the victim spoke of her sadness at having her confidence dented.
Judge Mary Dorgan agreed with defence solicitor Frank Buttimer’s description of Margaret Ward’s crimes as being nasty, mean and offensive to people going about their everyday business at Christmastime.
Judge Dorgan imposed an overall jail term of nine months on Dubliner Ward. Inspector Finbarr O’Sullivan said Ward had 88 previous convictions of which 42 were for theft.
“Quite obviously, you came down to Cork with your own shopping in mind,” said the judge.
“It was mean and offensive, it is really appalling behaviour. You have been given a chance (with suspended sentences for thefts previously) and you have not availed of it.”
Garda Lorraine O’Donovan said the defendant carried out multiple thefts at city centre shops in the days before Christmas and also stole purses from three unsuspecting shoppers.
Garda O’Donovan read victim impact statements from two of the women whose purses were taken.
Mr Buttimer solicitor said during a previous bail application, which was refused, that Ward was seriously ill and had limited mobility. Garda O’Donovan replied that the accused woman was allegedly highly mobile for a period of four and a half hours on a Saturday morning and afternoon in Cork City.
“Whilst I was doing some Christmas shopping in Penney’s in Cork on Saturday, December 16, a woman tried to steal my purse from my bag. Luckily, I felt her at my bag and challenged her along with my daughter. The purse was dropped on the ground and the woman left.
“My daughter and I went for something to eat but neither of us could eat as we were in such a state. I was thinking what could have happened and that the money I had saved all year to buy presents for my grandchildren could have been taken by somebody who targeted me, simply because I am 87, have Parkinson’s and was, in her eyes, an easy touch.
“I love going to town and having a browse around the shops and I honestly never felt in any danger, but after my experience on Saturday I am quite hesitant to go to town now. I feel like a little bit of my independence, which I value so much, has been taken from me.
“While the woman didn’t get my money, she has dented my confidence and made me very wary and nervous of those around me, which I think is very sad.”
Another woman, in her 30s, said: “I was in Cork city centre when my purse was taken. I was shopping for a Christmas present for my godchild and the money which was taken was to buy her a present.
“Since then I feel very cautious about being in a crowded place on my own and have become hyper-vigilant when there are people near me for fear that it might happen again.
“I feel like I’m looking around me to see if there’s a person who could be about who would do the same thing.”
There were pleas of guilty to 11 theft charges before Cork District Court from Margaret Ward, aged 57, of 21 Upper South Earl St, Dublin. The total value was €1,169 worth of property from shops and from the purses.
Mr Buttimer said the 57-year-old defendant had six children, 16 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.