Man caught with stolen monkey in car

A trainee football coach, who was caught with a stolen monkey in a cage in the back of his car, has been ordered to carry out community service to avoid a jail term.

Paul Murtagh, 29, of Birchdale Park, Kinsealy, Co Dublin, and Lighthouse Apartments, East Wall, pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court yesterday to possessing “one common South American marmoset” worth €1,500.

He was caught with the animal at Ravensdale Road, East Wall, on Oct 1 last year, hours after it had been taken during a burglary in Co Kildare.

The unemployed father-of-three, who is taking part in a football coaching course, also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a stun gun at Marlborough Place, on Oct 27, 2009.

He had failed to get the stun gun trial thrown out on the grounds of delay after the court heard gardaí had found it difficult to trace him until he came up on their “radar” when he was arrested over the stolen monkey.

Detective Garda Liam Eviston told Judge Bryan Smyth that as a result of a tip-off he stopped Murtagh’s car and carried out a search and “a monkey was found in a cage in the boot of the car”.

The pet monkey had been taken during a burglary at the home of a couple earlier in the same day.

He agreed with defence counsel Cathal Ó Braonáin that Murtagh, who had 31 prior convictions for motoring offences, was co-operative on arrest. The animal was returned to its rightful owners.

Detective Garda Eviston agreed with the defence lawyer that Murtagh had driven to a house with some other people to collect the monkey from a garden.

The officer also agreed that the trainee football coach had denied knowing that the animal had been taken unlawfully and accepted that he had been reckless in relation to his knowledge of whether or not it was stolen.

Garda Laura Conlon gave evidence on the stun gun seizure. She told Judge Smyth that she had been on patrol at Marlborough Place in the city-centre, when Murtagh pulled up and shouted “anyone buying or selling zimos?” There had been heroin addicts in the area and his comment, a reference to Zimmovane sleeping tablets, had been made as a joke, the court was told.

Garda Conlon carried out a search and found the stun gun in a school bag in the car. Murtagh had bought the weapon legally during a trip to Santa Ponsa and brought it back to Ireland — however, stun guns are banned here.

The defence said it was a “boys with toys” situation, but the judge said “it is a bit more than a toy in this jurisdiction”.

Judge Smyth noted that Murtagh had been found suitable for a community sanction.

For possessing the stolen monkey, he ordered him to carry out 80 hours’ work to avoid a four-month jail term. Murtagh was also told he must carry out another 120 hours of community service in lieu of a six-month sentence for possessing the stun gun weapon.

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