Nobody came to help nuns attacked on way to Mass

When an elderly nun shouted “help” after being attacked when walking to morning mass in Limerick city centre, nobody came to her assistance.

In a distressed state, Sr Pauline Clarke had to walk through O’Connell St to the Augustinian church, before she could raise the alarm, Limerick Circuit Court heard.

Sr Pauline, aged 76 and Sr Bernadette O’Driscoll, aged 79, were on their way to 10am Mass at the Augustinian’s, when they were pounced on from behind by heroin addict, Joe Roche. He grabbed Sr Pauline’s hand bag, before running off.

The incident happened about 100m from the church on January 3 last. Efforts by the nuns to get help at the scene failed and they only managed to alert gardaí when they got to the church.

Roche, aged 31, of no fixed abode and whose last known address was at Carraig East, Clarina, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty to a charge of robbing Sr Pauline.

Arrested shotly after the incident, Roche told gardaí it was one of the most cowardly things he had ever done in his criminal life in which he has had 35 convictions.

Garda Denis Counihan said Sr Pauline was holding her hand bag by a shoulder strap when she felt a tug from behind. As a result she stumbled and nearly fell.

She then realised somebody had grabbed her bag which contained €40 in cash and items including a holy water container.

Sr Pauline shouted “help” but nobody came to their assistance.

Garda Counihan said he and a colleague, Garda Siobhan Fletcher, arresed Roche a short time later when they saw him in a lane off a nearby street. The bag was later recovered, but the money was gone. Roche had spent it on drugs.

Garda Counihan said while it was a traumatic and upsetting experience for Sr Pauline, she had recovered.

Garda Counihan said: “Nuns are forgiving.”

Judge Tom O’Donnell said it was an insidious crime in which Roche opportunistically targeted two elderly women.

“This kind of crime must be stamped out,” he said.

Roche had been in custody since the crime last January and a probation report stated he was making serious efforts in jail to deal with his addiction through a treatment programme.

He imposed a three-year sentence, with the final year suspended. The sentence was back dated to January of this year.


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