Operation Evening Mass: Gardaí arrested robbers while Cork couple out, court hears

Man pleads not guilty to entering house as trespasser to commit theft, and endangerment and causing criminal damage to a Garda car
Operation Evening Mass: Gardaí arrested robbers while Cork couple out, court hears

Gardaí had information a burglary was going to take place at the home, court told

An elderly couple planning to attend evening Mass were informed of a plan to ‘rob’ their house when they were out and they gave permission to have six officers in the house to catch them in an investigation called Operation Evening Mass.

That was the evidence of the couple, who have been married for 43 years, which was presented to Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin and a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court today.

John Faulkner, aged 38, of 4 Adelaide Place, St Luke’s, Cork, pleaded not guilty to charges of entering a house as a trespasser to commit a theft at Freemount, Charleville, Co Cork, on Saturday, October 19, 2019, and endangerment and causing criminal damage to a Garda car at Banteer, Co Cork.

Donal O’Sullivan, prosecuting, read into evidence statements by the elderly couple, with the consent of defence senior counsel Ciarán O’Loughlin.

The semi-retired farmer said: “Detective Seán told us they had information people were planning to rob our house. The guard asked me for permission to come to my house and catch the fellows when we go to Mass.” 

His wife said: “I got an awful fright that people were calling to us. I just buried my sister last week… If the guards did not come out to us we might have nothing when we would come out of Mass.” 

Mr O’Sullivan outlined to the seven men and five women of the jury what he anticipated the evidence in the trial would be but he stressed that this outline was not itself evidence.

“Going back to October 19, 2019, gardaí have information a burglary was going to take place at the home of an elderly couple in Freemount on that afternoon.

“[The elderly man] gave permission to station a number of gardaí in the house. Six gardaí were put into the house and two other gardaí were placed outside the house to keep an eye on what was happening.

“A car arrived in the course of the afternoon and two people got out of it… Driving the car was John Faulkner. The car drives off. Later in the afternoon [the elderly couple] leave. They are going to Mass. As they leave and turn to the left in their driveway a vehicle passed against them.” 

Mr O'Sullivan said two named persons were arrested at the couple’s home — one of them inside the house and one outside a window.

Two members of An Garda Síochána saw the car referred to previously and saw Mr Faulkner driving it, Mr O’Sullivan alleged.

“The car takes off and there follows a car chase. The car goes straight through Ballymaquirke Cross towards Banteer and goes around a bend, passing another vehicle on the inside. That, the prosecution says, is the endangerment but that is a matter for you (the jury).

“At a certain point in time, a bag was thrown out the window. The bag was recovered. Another bag goes out the window later. One of those bags has a fob for a gym in Mayfield that belonged to [the man caught inside the house in Freemount].

“The car goes through Banteer village at 150km/h. The speed limit in the village is obviously not quite that,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

The barrister further alleged that the car was later driven into the side of the unmarked Garda car, which had a blue flashing light, when gardaí tried to get him to stop. These alleged facts resulted in the criminal damage charge.

Mr Faulkner denied all charges against him, principal of which were the endangerment, criminal damage to the Garda car, and burglary at the elderly couple’s home. 

Mr O’Sullivan explained in relation to the burglary charge that the jury would have to consider the legal concept of joint enterprise or common design where each defendant does not have to commit each element of a crime committed by a group to be fully part of it.

The trial continues tomororw.

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