A 75-year-old woman who parked her car near a church in Tralee last January was on her way to do her shopping and was forced to engage in “a tug of war” to hold onto her handbag when confronted by a woman with multiple previous theft convictions, a court has heard.
Later that afternoon, a second woman, also in her 70s, had her handbag stolen, containing €250.
Fionnuala Moloney, aged 42, of Shanakill, Tralee, Co Kerry, pleaded guilty at Killarney Circuit Criminal Court to two counts: That of attempted robbery of the woman near Castle St, and the theft of a handbag containing €250 cash on Edward St.
Outlining the case, prosecutor Tom Rice told how on January 31 last, the then 75-year-old woman drove into Tralee to do some shopping and parked in the churchyard off Castle St when Ms Moloney approached her.
She was shouting, “Give me money, I want money," said Mr Rice.
A tug of war ensued where the woman tried to hold onto her bag, and a Polish national who saw her predicament went to the woman’s assistance, said the prosecutor.
Fortunately Moloney did not get the handbag.
Later in the afternoon at Lidl on Edward St, Moloney targeted a 78-year-old man with limited mobility who was emerging from the store with shopping.
The man’s 71-year-old wife who was in the car thought her husband knew the woman and was giving her a lift when she sat into the back of their car — only to take a handbag with €250 cash.
Garda Eilish Cronin said: “Both women are still very afraid. They were put in fear that day and they are still afraid. It was very upsetting for them.”
Moloney has 158 previous convictions, mostly for theft and burglary, and she was on bail at the time, the garda outlined.
When arrested, she had €820 in her possession.
A chronic heroin addict for many years, she abused substances including alcohol, said Brain McInerney, defending.
She was seeking to obtain cash to feed her addictions, the court was told.
Garda Cronin agreed with the defence barrister that Moloney was “a nuisance for the Garda in Tralee". Moloney apologised unreservedly, said Mr McInerney.
She had psychiatric difficulties brought on by her addictions and the barrister said the current very restrictive nature of prison would impact on her greatly. “The Covid-19 discount” should be applied," Mr McInerney urged Judge Helen Boyle.
Judge Boyle said addiction was the driver of almost all her offending and due to this, she had now developed a serious mental illness.
The judge handed down a two-year sentence, suspending one year.
The €250 stolen from the 71-year-old woman is to be returned from the cash forfeited at the time of arrest, the judge directed gardaí.