Gardaí mounted a major investigation in an attempt to arrest criminals carrying out burglaries at the homes of elderly people going to Mass and today three accused men were in court.
The men were brought before Cork District Court today charged with carrying out a burglary at the home of a couple in their 80s living in North Cork.
Judge Olann Kelleher refused bail to all three men: 61-year-old Jerry O’Leary of 12 Brandon Crescent, Dillons Cross, Cork; Niall Fitzpatrick, aged 52, of Corrin Close, The Glen; and John Faulkner, aged 37, of 4 Adelaide Place, St Luke’s, Cork.
Each man is charged with entering a house as a trespasser to commit a theft at Freemount, Charleville, on October 19.
Detective Garda Declan Keane arrested Mr Fitzpatrick. Detective Sergeant Hugh Twomey of Mallow Garda Station objected to bail being granted to Mr Fitzpatrick based in part on the seriousness of the alleged offence, namely burglary, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
“In this incident it is alleged that the burglary was carried out at the home of an elderly couple in their 80s at Freemount, Charleville,” said Det Sgt Twomey.
They were targeted by an organised criminal gang of which Niall Fitzpatrick is a member. This couple was targeted in the belief that large sums of cash and pension payments which were accrued [would be] in the house. The victims are the most vulnerable in society.
At that point in the bail application, defence solicitor Eddie Burke objected to the evidence and said commentary on vulnerability of parties was not grounds for objecting to bail. Det Sgt Twomey said: “I believe that Niall Fitzpatrick — if admitted to bail — will return to committing similar types of crime.”
The detective said the arrests arose out of a highly resourced garda investigation going on before and since the alleged incident giving rise to the burglary charge. Mr Burke suggested that the house was vacant at the time of the alleged burglary.
Det Sgt Twomey replied: “Yes, the occupants had just left to go to Mass.”
Mr O’Leary was arrested by Detective Garda Patrick O’Sullivan. Det Sgt Twomey described the alleged targeting of the elderly couple’s home by a criminal organisation.
“Jerry O’Leary was part of that enterprise,” he said. “This couple were targeted at Mass times where they were watched and waited until they would leave the house. I believe he will commit similar types of crimes if granted bail. Given the strength of evidence, he is less likely to show up to court to face the charge if given bail.
Joseph Cuddigan, solicitor, said to the detective:
You laid great emphasis on the rural location of crimes. If bail was granted which confined him to Cork City with a curfew would that answer some of your fears?
Det Sgt Twomey said he would still have concerns. Mr O’Leary said he wanted to be at home because he and his partner had a five-week-old baby.
Mr Faulkner was arrested by Detective Garda Padraig Reddington. Det Sgt Twomey objected to bail due to the nature and degree of seriousness of the charge where a targeted burglary was carried out by a criminal organisation of which Mr Faulkner was a member.
“It is alleged John Faulkner was the driver of the vehicle used by the group to commit the burglary and drove to the scene where he dropped two others and waited for the signal,” said Det Sgt Twomey. “When he became aware gardaí had intervened he fled the scene in the vehicle. He was stopped by gardaí at Banteer and observed discarding evidence from the vehicle.”
As bail was refused to all three defendants, Judge Olann Kelleher remanded them in custody until October 29. Sergeant Gearóid Davis said directions would be sought from the DPP.