Two Cork city burglars targeting the home of a very elderly couple in North Cork attending Saturday evening mass were caught red-handed by armed gardaí who were in the house waiting for the raiders to arrive.
The intelligence-led garda investigation which kept one step ahead of a gang who carefully planned their crime over a number of days culminated in seven-year jail terms being imposed on two men today.
62-year-old Jerry O’Leary of 12 Brandon Crescent, Dillons Cross, Cork, and 53-year-old Niall Fitzpatrick, 53, of Corrin Close, The Glen, Cork, were both jailed for seven years.
They each pleaded guilty to entering a house as a trespasser to commit a theft at Freemount, Charleville, on Saturday, October 19, 2019.
Detective Inspector Vincent O’Sullivan said that two days prior to the crime gardaí acted on intelligence received that Fitzpatrick and O’Leary were planning a burglary at the home of an elderly couple.
On October 17 2019, two days before it happened, surveillance was set up commencing at 6am. Fitzpatrick left his home at 6.50am and drove by rented car to collect his accomplice, O’Leary, at his home. They drove with another person to Liscarroll, switching drivers during the journey.
Fitzpatrick and O’Leary hid in woods near the targeted house and kept it under observation for four hours. The householders are an 88-year-old man and 86-year-old woman.
Ultimately, on the day of the crime, in a different car, they waited until the elderly owners left for Saturday evening mass. They followed their car to the church and then returned to the house.
Fitzpatrick and O’Leary prised open a rear window using a screwdriver and Fitzpatrick climbed in. Once he was in the hallway of the house armed gardaí emerged from their concealed positions and arrested Fitzpatrick inside the house and O’Leary outside the back window with the screwdriver still in his hand.
O’Leary, a father of 13 children, including a seven-month-old baby, had 48 previous convictions, including eight for burglary. One of those occurred in 2007 when he was confronted by gardaí at Boherbue in the course of a burglary.
Fitzpatrick, a father of five, had 70 previous convictions including escaping from custody and the robbery of Farran post office, for which he got an eight-year sentence.
Sinead Behan, barrister for O’Leary, emphasised his plea of guilty and the lack of any violence in the crime. She also referred to traumatic experiences he endured in his past.
Paula McCarthy, barrister for Fitzpatrick, said the defendant said he would be terrified of his own mother being the victim of such a crime and he apologised and expressed remorse.
Both barristers emphasised the fact the householders were not present when the crime was committed.
Det. Insp. O’Sullivan thanked the elderly couple for trusting the gardaí and allowing them to take up positions in their home for the detection of this crime. The 86-year-old man wrote a victim impact report for the judge to read but he asked for it not to be read in open court today at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said, “What I am dealing with are two dedicated and committed criminals, one in his sixties, one in his fifties.
"I don’t accept anything will change either of these men until they decide they have had enough and that they are going to give up.
“This practice of going abroad to rural communities and committing burglaries in houses of some very elderly people.
"This is a virus as virulent and harmful to the community as Covid-19.
"It causes worry, disruption and fright for elderly people who are terrified of this type of activity.
“I have read from the victim’s statement that it is frightening that people from Cork city are coming out targeting elderly and vulnerable people.
"He (the victim) is thankful to the guards for their professionalism and this is to be commended.
“It is hard to see a burglary of greater determination or seriousness than this one."