Gangs targeting the homes of elderly and vulnerable people living in remote areas bring terror to innocent people, a judge said as he jailed a getaway driver for such a crime for 12 years and banned him from driving for 20 years.
A jury unanimously found the getaway driver guilty of this highly planned burglary in North Cork. The elderly couple planning to attend evening mass were informed of a plan to burgle 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.
Two men caught – one inside and one outside the house – pleaded guilty last year to their part in the crime and they were sentenced to nine years with the last two year suspended, last year.
Now Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin has jailed John Faulkner, 38, of 4 Adelaide Place, St. Luke’s, Cork, and originally from Tralee, County Kerry, for 12 years for being their getaway driver.
He had two previous burglary convictions, including one from June 2007 – again occurring in North Cork and again at the home of elderly people living remotely. 14 years ago, it was at the home of two elderly siblings.
Detective Superintendent Vincent O’Sullivan who led the investigation in 2019 said Faulkner committed the 2007 offence with one of the two men jailed last year for the more recent burglary.
He also said gardaí, who had Faulkner under surveillance, saw him in Dromcollogher village the previous day watching the elderly withdrawing their pensions.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said Faulkner took off from near the burgled house like a scalded cat and he did not accept the explanation put forward by defence barrister John Temple that Faulkner thought someone was chasing him in a feud.
The judge said, “This is a significant case in which there was a gang involved in a planned and determined burglary in North Cork – a fair distance from the city where the accused lives.
"There was meticulous planning and significant determination. The accused was totally and completely involved.
“No other type of offence causes more fear and misery than gangs going around committing burglaries.
Despite the evidence than his two accomplices went to the house while he waited in the getaway car, the judge said that in a very real sense, he was in that house every bit as much as the other two men.
The evidence against him was overwhelming,” the judge said.
Mr Temple BL cited the constitutional protection of the family in the context of Faulkner being away from his family when he is in custody.
“Mr Faulkner is a good man, a good father, a good son and a good friend. His family love him and are concerned about his panic attacks and depression,” Mr Temple said.
The jury of seven men and five women at Cork Circuit Criminal Court unanimously found Faulkner guilty to charges of entering a house as a trespasser to commit a theft at Freemount, Charleville, County Cork, on Saturday, October 19 2019, and endangerment and dangerous driving.
The semi-retired farmer in his mid-80s who owned the house, said in a statement read in the course of the trial, “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…
Prosecution barrister Donal O’Sullivan said, “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.
“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 150 kilometres per hour. The speed limit in the village is obviously not quite that.”
The dangerous driving charge consisted of speeding through the village. Shorter concurrent sentences were imposed on Faulkner in respect of the driving charges.