Two criminals, both with long lists of previous convictions, ignored pleas for help from a dying man’s sister as they fled from his home which they had just burgled. They have now been jailed, but could be due for release within 16 months.

David Casey, aged 21, from Coolock in Dublin, and his cousin Michael Casey, aged 33, from Clonlong Halting Site in Limerick, both pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court last September to carrying out the burglary at the home of Limerick bachelor, John O’Donoghue, aged 62.

Prior to breaking into Mr O’Donoghue’s home at Toomaline, Doon, the Caseys and an unnamed third man who drove them carried out break-ins at homes in the nearby Cappamore area on August 27, 2015.

Sergeant Michael Reidy, who led the investigation, said that on the afternoon of the crime, Mr O’Donoghue and his sister Christina went to Tipperary town to do some shopping. They arrived home around 2pm and saw a black Renault Laguna on the other side of the road with a man in it. They noticed the front gate was slightly open, although they had closed it when they left.

Mr O’Donoghue approached a side door and noticed part of it had been broken. Christina told him to “be careful” as they suspected burglars were still inside. The man in the car started honking the horn to alert his two accomplices inside.

Mr O’Donoghue picked up a shovel from a shed. As he stood near the door, Christina saw he was becoming unwell and he collapsed in the yard. She tried to assist him and called on the two intruders to come out and help. They ignored her and ran off through the fields.

Judge Tom O’Donnell yesterday jailed both Caseys to three and a half years, with the sentences backdated to the date of the crime, when they were taken into custody. A separate two-year sentence for another attempted burglary is to run concurrently. This means that, with remission, the two Caseys will be due out within 16 months.

Judge O’Donnell said both men had shown remorse and had written to the O’Donoghue family expressing their regret at what occurred. He noted that Michael Casey has been a model prisoner and that David Casey had a difficult family background. Aggravating factors were the loss of life and pre-meditated nature of the crime in which easy targets in rural areas were burgled, violating homes. A probation report said both were at high risk of reoffending within a year.

Mr O’Donoghue’s family have condemned the leniency of the sentence and are calling on the DPP to bring the matter to the Court of Appeal.

After the sentencing hearing, a spokesperson for the O’Donoghue family said: “We feel the sentence is lenient given the circumstances and we are disappointed the two-year sentences were not made consecutive rather than concurrent, given the premeditated nature of the crime. Appealing the sentence is a matter for the DPP and we would hope she would consider and appeal the sentence.”

The court heard the Caseys fled through fields after coming out a window, taking with them a gold watch, cash in sterling and dollars, and a car key. They were arrested near Franey’s Cross, over 2km from Mr O’Donoghue’s home, having been tracked down by gardaí Bill Collins and Elaine O’Donovan.

Sgt Reidy said it was an organised crime and the Laguna was bought the day before on DoneDeal.

The modus operandi of the Caseys and the third man, referred to as Mr X, was to drive around rural areas. One would act as a lookout selecting houses to break into, selecting older houses and cottages as they were less likely to have security devices fitted. When they would move in on a house, one man would remain in the car and the other two would break in. If anybody approached, the lookout man would beep the horn.

Sgt Bill Collins, who was in the area, came to the scene and also tried to revive Mr O’Donoghue who was pronounced dead at the scene.

In a report, Marie Cassidy, the State pathologist said the cause of death, heart failure, was linked to the burglary. Dr Cassidy told the court that while Mr O’Donoghue had a significant level of heart disease, there was a close association between the incident and his fatal collapse.

In a victim impact statement, Mr O’Donoghue’s niece Angela Denning said they had lost a kind, clever, talented, and witty man: “A happy home is now missing something that, unlike stolen possessions, can never be replaced.”

Ms Denning said: “Words can’t describe the impact of this break-in on our family. After a burglary everyone loses their sense of security and feels more vulnerable; they add extra locks; get a dog; and live in fear that it might happen again. My parents used to worry about me because I live in Dublin, now I wake at night worrying about the safety of my parents and members of my family.

 


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