Marian Lingurar, with a former address in Loughgeorge, Claregalway, pleaded not guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court during a two-day trial, to 11 charges of handling various religious items at Loughgeorge, knowing they were stolen, on October 4, 2011.
The jury was instructed to return not guilty verdicts on three of the charges, by direction of Judge Rory McCabe, due to lack of evidence. They took just under two hours yesterday to unanimously find Lingurar guilty of handling the remaining eight items, knowing they were stolen and he was remanded in custody to yesterday’s court for sentence.
Garda Patricia Grady told the hearing that every person involved had a story to tell when they contacted gardaí in September 2011 to report items stolen from their loved one’s graves.
She said items were taken from several graves, including baby’s graves, children’s graves, and from the graves of young people who had died in tragic circumstances. Items recovered that October from Lingurar’s house in Loughgeorge included statues of Our Lady, several statues of angels — all taken from childen’s graves — along with statues of the Sacred Heart. Two of the larger statues had been ripped out of grottos in Kiltrogue and Oranmore villages.
Nine people gave evidence at the trial that they noticed religious ornaments had been taken from the graves of their loved ones in late August and early September, 2011. Some people became emotional when asked to identify the stolen items.
All of the witnesses said they were told in October that gardaí had recovered the items and they went to Oranmore Garda Station and positively identified the objects.
Two witnesses gave evidence of how statues had been “yanked” out of grottos erected by village communities in Oranmore and Kiltrogue. One woman said an expensive statue erected as part of a headstone on her parent’s grave was tainted by those who walked across the grave to steal it and she did not want it back.
Lingurar maintained throughout the trial that he and his wife bought the items at flea markets but the jury did not believe him.
His defence barrister, Gary McDonald, told the sentence hearing yesterday that Lingurar now wanted to offer his apologies to the bereaved families and wanted them to have the items back.
Judge Rory McCabe said this was a “mean, nasty, and upsetting series of thefts” — before imposing a three-year sentence on each of the eight charges before the court, to run concurrently.
Mr McDonald said his client was currently serving a four-year sentence which was due to expire in November 2017.
Judge McCabe directed the three-year sentence he was imposing was to be back-dated to November 13, the date the accused was found guilty by a jury.