Gardaí mounted a major investigation in an attempt to arrest members of a criminal gang carrying out burglaries targeted at the rural homes of elderly people going off to mass and yesterday three accused men were in court.
The men were brought before Cork District Court yesterday charged with carrying out a burglary at the home of a couple in their 80s living in North Cork.
Strenuous objections were made to any of the three being released on bail. Judge Olann Kelleher refused bail to all three men: 61-year-old Jerry O’Leary of 12 Brandon Crescent, Dillons Cross, Cork; Niall Fitzpatrick, 52, of Corrin Close, The Glen; and John Faulkner, 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 Saturday, October 19.
Detective Garda Declan Keane arrested Niall Fitzpatrick. Detective Sergeant Hugh Twomey of Mallow garda station objected to bail being granted to Niall Fitzpatrick based in part on the seriousness of the alleged offence, namely burglary which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years on conviction.
“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.
“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,” Det. Sgt. Twomey said.
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. He said the modus operandi involved hiring of rental vehicles used in the commission of alleged offences and he said sat nav and related information was examined in the course of the investigation.
Mr Burke suggested to the witness on the issue of being the home of an elderly couple 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.”
Jerry 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. 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. O’Leary said he wanted to be at home because he and his partner had a five-week-old child to mind.
John Faulkner was arrested by Det. 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 John 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. 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.”
Pat Horan, solicitor, said the accused would turn up to face the case if granted bail.
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 Director of Public Prosecutions.