Two men have been jailed for a "despicable and mean spirited" burglary on the home of an elderly couple who had poignantly died within weeks of each other prior to the break-in at their home, writes David Raleigh.
Wesley Ryan and Keith Kiely, with addresses in Castlequarter, Fedamore, Co Limerick, were jailed for a total of five years at Limerick Circuit Court today.
Both men pleaded guilty to burglary at the home of George and Breda Lynch, St Jude's, Fedamore.
Judge Tom O'Donnell, presiding, praised the actions of "two schoolboys" who raised the alarm after coming across the two thieves.
The court heard Mr and Mrs Lynch, both in their 80s, had passed away in February and March, 2014, and their home was vacant at the time of the burglary.
"The Lynch's grown-up children were coping with the tragedy of losing both parents and this compounded their enormous upset," Judge O'Donnell said.
On May 3, 2014, two local youths saw two men exiting the house in suspicious circumstances.
The boys - believing one of the men was carrying a knife - raised the alarm with a relative, and Gardaí were alerted.
When gardaí arrived on the scene they discovered Mr Ryan and Mr Kiely nearby.
The two men "took flight" and were apprehended after "running through gardens" of neighbouring houses, said John O'Sullivan, prosecuting.
Both men were "aggressive", and they "resisted arrest", the court heard.
Mr O'Sullivan said "shattered glass particles" found during a forensic examination of the men's clothes linked both men to the burglary.
"A footprint from a runner worn by Mr Kiely" was also discovered inside the house.
The men had sprayed the contents of a fire extinguisher inside the house in an act of "wanton criminal damage", the court heard.
Mr Kiely (aged 41) who had 67 previous convictions, was on bail at the time, on a three-year suspended sentence for a previous burglary.
A probation report stated he was "at high risk" of reoffending.
Mr Ryan, a 38-year old father of four, who the court heard had convictions - mainly for road traffic and public order offences - was at "moderate risk" of reoffending.
Judge Tom O'Donnell described the burglary at the Lynch family home as "appalling".
"Both (men) took advantage of a house which was left vacant as a result of the passing of Mr and Mrs Lynch. The break-in was compounded by the wanton damage. It was mean spirited and despicable."
The judge added: "I commend the swift actions of the two young schoolboys and the gardaí who caught the accused red-handed."
He sentenced Kiely to three years and Ryan to three years with the final 12 months suspended.
He made no order on the Section 99 suspended sentence against Kiely.