Sunday 20 August 2017

'Because of this burglary uncle John had to be left lying in the yard covered in a polythene bag'

Family horror as two burglary gang members jailed

Gardaí at the scene in Doon where John O’Donoghue collapsed and died after being confronted by intruders at his home
Gardaí at the scene in Doon where John O’Donoghue collapsed and died after being confronted by intruders at his home

David Raleigh

The family of a bachelor who died of fright after he discovered a gang ransacking his home, has hit out at the three and a half-year sentences imposed on two members of the gang.

Michael Casey (33), of Clonlong, Southill, Limerick, and his cousin, David Casey (21), with an address at Carragh Park, Coolock, Dublin 17, both pleaded guilty to carrying out three counts of burglary and one count of criminal damage, in the Doon/Cappamore area on August 27, 2015.

At the time David Casey was on bail twice, for burglary and for robbery.

John O'Donoghue, who lived alone, suspected his house near Doon had been broken into when he returned there from a shopping trip with his sister Christina that afternoon.

He noticed that a side door had been forced open and a black van was parked in a yard across the road.

Mr O'Donoghue went to get a shovel but when he returned he collapsed in the yard and later died.

During today's sentencing hearing at Limerick Circuit Court, judge Tom O'Donnell told Mr O'Donoghue's heartbroken family: "The court is deeply conscious of your loss."

"(The sentence) will not change the fact Mr O'Donoghue is no longer with us and it will not alleviate his family's pain...The court must deal with the burglary charges, and those alone," he added.

Afterwards, Mr O'Donoghue's family called on the State to consider appealing the sentences, on grounds that the terms were too lenient.

"The sentence was lenient given the circumstances, and I'm disappointed that the sentences were concurrent rather than consecutive, given the premeditation," a family spokesperson said.

"It's a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. I would hope she would consider (an appeal)," they added.

Judge O'Donnell described the offences before the court as "premeditated crimes", adding the two men "deliberately targeted rural properties unlikely to have alarms". However, he noted that "no one could have foreseen" Mr O'Donoghue's death".

State Pathologist, Prof Marie Cassidy, who carried out a post mortem on Mr O'Donoghue - concluded that, despite her finding that he had significant coronary heart disease - his death "cannot be separated" from the burglary.

Both defendants - who had 60 previous convictions between them - ran from the house after Mr O'Donoghue collapsed to the ground, despite pleas from Mr O'Donoghue's sister Christina, asking them to help.

Christina O'Donoghue told gardai: "I called on the them to help but no one came to help. By then, I didn't care they were in the house... I just wanted somebody to help my John." The criminal cousins were apprehended a short distance from the house by local gardaí Bill Collins and Elaine O'Donovan.

Judge O'Donnell said the State acknowledged the men's admissions of guilt were "pivotal" to the prosecution's case. "There was no DNA, no forensics, no violence," he added.

Both men penned letters expressing "deep remorse" and "deep shock" at Mr O'Donoghue's death.

The court heard they had both led "dysfunctional lives", and had addictions to drugs and alcohol.

For the burglary at Mr O'Donoghue's home, both men  were sentenced to four years and six months, with the final 12 months suspended for a period of six years. They also received a concurrent two-year sentence on the remaining burglary charges. The court took into consideration the criminal damage offence.

Both defendants were described as being "high risk" of re-offending, probation reports concluded.

At the time of the O'Donoghue burglary, David Casey had 14 previous convictions, mostly for road traffic and public order offences, and one previous conviction for burglary. He was on bail in relation to burglary and robbery charges at the time.

Michael Casey had 44 previous convictions when he burgled the O'Donoghue home.

Neither defendant have any record of ever having been employed, the court previously heard.

Both men were described as "model prisoners" having spent the past year in jail on remand. They are likely to complete their sentences in a little over a year with remission.

In a victim impact statement, Mr O'Donoghue's niece, Angela Denning, stated: "Words can't describe the impact of this break-in on our family. In the immediate aftermath we did what other people in the same situation do. We cleared up the mess, removed the broken items, arranged for a new door to be fitted... but unlike other people, we also had to await a post-mortem and arrange a funeral.

"Because of this burglary uncle John had to be left lying in the yard covered in a polythene bag. In normal circumstances a grieving family can spend time with their loved one, to help them come to terms with what has happened. Because of this burglary we were denied that.

"On the 27th of August 2015... in the space of a couple of minutes - all of our lives changed forever.

"We lost a kind, clever, talented, and very witty man. We miss him terribly. A very happy home is now missing something that, unlike possessions, can never be replaced."

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