By Gordon Deegan
A thieving home-help who was stealing from a "fragile and emotionally distressed" 84-year-old woman was caught after secret cameras were installed in her home.
In a bid to catch the suspected thief, two secret cameras were installed at the home of Peggy O’Grady after she raised concerns with him over missing monies at her rural home near Scarriff.
The secret cameras were installed to watch over Mrs O’Grady’s safe and her handbag and caught Clarecare home help, Mary Doyle in the act of stealing €220 on five separate occasions in April of last year.
At Ennis District Court today, Det. Garda Bernard Casey said that Ms Doyle (55) of Ross, Feakle in east Clare denied the thieving in a Garda interview until she was presented with the video evidence from the two secret cameras
Det. Casey said that a number of different home helps were aiding Mrs O’Grady and that over a 24-day period in April 2017, the concealed cameras filmed Ms Doyle taking money from Mrs O’Grady’s handbag on four occasions and going to the safe and taking a quantity of cash.
He said: “As a result of that I arrested the defendant on 3rd of May 2017.”
Prior to the cameras being installed, Det. Casey said that Mrs O’Grady believed there was money missing from two areas - from a safe in her bedroom and a purse in a handbag in a press in her kitchen.
Imposing a suspended six-month jail term on Ms Doyle for stealing the €220 from the widow on five separate dates, Judge Patrick Durcan said that one of the aggravating factors was Ms Doyle brazening it out and denying the thefts before she was presented with the video footage.
Judge Durcan said that Mrs O’Grady had lost her husband only months prior in August 2017 and she was at the time of the thefts “fragile, aged and emotionally distressed”.
Judge Durcan said that Ms Doyle “was entrusted with care and welfare of short periods of time of an elderly lady living in a rural area and she flagrantly breached that trust”.
He said that Ms Doyle “interfered with the private personal savings of Mrs Peggy O’Grady and removed monies from her handbag and monies from a safe. That is the greatest aggravating factor.”
Judge Durcan said that what had taken place “was at the upper end of this type of criminality”.
Solicitor for Ms Doyle, Turlough Herbert said that his client admitted that the offences are “despicable”.
He said: “By any standards, it is a serious betrayal of trust to a vulnerable person and she apologises unreservedly to Ms O’Grady for that.”
Insp. Tom Kennedy said that Mrs O’Grady has been fully compensated.
Mr Herbert said that Ms Doyle’s crime has brought much embarrassment to her “and she has been very much ostracised”.
Mr Herbert said that Ms Doyle has had serious health difficulties. He said: “She got on quite well with clients and she was well liked.”
Mr Herbert said that Ms Doyle has “two sons who have done quite well in life”.
He said: “This has been very difficult for her and her family and she has destroyed any prospect of further employment.”
Det. Casey said that Ms Doyle “comes from a good background and well liked by clientele that she dealt with in her job”.