Kevin O’Keeffe, from Clongeel Lower, Boherbue, Mallow, Co Cork, appeared before a special sitting of Fermoy District Court yesterday at which he also faced three charges of stealing mobile phone credit from an elderly neighbour.
At the onset of the proceedings, defence solicitor Charlie O’Connor objected to the summons, which he called “a nonsense” because they stated the texts had been sent from a place unknown within the State, but within the district court area of Mallow. After a recess, Judge Tim Lucey agreed with an application from Insp Tony O’Sullivan to delete the Mallow area reference.
Sgt Gemma Scanlon read out three texts sent to former Det Garda John Gaine in Nov/Dec 2010, in which he was described as a tramp, knacker, and told he would be shot dead.
He was also told to watch his back and that the sender knew where he lived.
At the time Det Garda Gaine was on temporary transfer from Kanturk to aid gardaí in Limerick. He said he had no idea who sent the texts and their threatening nature had a major bearing on why he retired.
Garda Andy McCarthy, who was based in Millstreet, also received a text which stated that he and a colleague would be shot.
Gardaí investigated but found the pay-as-you-go mobile number from which the messages were sent was not listed to anybody.
However, on Jan 2, 2012, Sgt Scanlon said she investigated a complaint from Con Vaughan, aged 71, that somebody had been stealing credit from his phone.
Mr Vaughan told the court he regularly topped up credit because he was not in good health and started to notice it was disappearing though he made few calls.
Sgt Scanlon discovered that O’Keeffe was taking the credit by using the Vodafone IOU buddy system, and two weeks later arrested him. She found a SIM card in his house which matched the number used to send texts to her colleagues.
Sgt Scanlon then read out a statement made by O’Keeffe in which he recalled sending the messages, but regretted it. He claimed the motivation was that he was being blamed for a robbery he had no part in.
Mr O’Connor reiterated there was still no evidence the texts were sent within the State, which needed to be established under law.
Judge Lucey said gardaí had not proved that and he dismissed the charges.
However, he found O’Keeffe, who had several convictions, guilty on three counts of stealing €40 of credit from Mr Vaughan. O’Keefe got a three-month suspended prison term.