Sunday 22 October 2017

Pensioner’s life-savings robbed by man posing as garda

* Elderly man withdrew €28k from bank as he feared it was going to collapse

Gardai believe the incident arose after a row between two party-goers
Gardai believe the incident arose after a row between two party-goers
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A PENSIONER who withdrew his €28,000 life savings from the bank over fears of an Irish financial collapse had it stolen by a young man impersonating a garda.

Kenneth Lyons (31) was jailed for three and a half years for what a judge described as a "a very mean" crime against a vulnerable old man.

The 71-year-old had the cash which he had saved up to cover his funeral expenses stolen just hours before he was due to fly to Medjugorje on a prilgrimage.

Lyons, who has 15 previous convictions, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court after being detained in the UK last May on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

He was first charged in 2011 with the theft of €28,000 and with impersonating a member of An Garda Siochana.

Lyons of Willison Meadows, Blarney, Cork pleaded guilty to both offences at Wolfe Tone Street, Cork on June 26 2011.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain heard that the pensioner was so scared of Irish banks collapsing during the financial crisis he had withdrawn his life savings and kept it in an envelope at home.

As he loaded luggage into his car for the pilgrimage, he was approached by Lyons who identified himself as a detective at Gurranabraher Garda Station.

The pensioner was told they were investigating a number of robberies in the area and were offering to mark any cash held by householders for security reasons.

He brought Lyons into his home and showed him an envelope containing €28,000 in €50 notes.

Lyons grabbed the envelope, ran down the stairs and out of the house.

The old man attempted to give chase but lost Lyons.

Gardai called to Lyons' house two days later and found €18,900 hidden in two socks.

Lyons had also shaved off all his hair in a bid to avoid being identified from all the media coverage of the theft.

He was charged before Cork District Court on June 30 2011 and secured High Court bail the following month.

The case came before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on May 3 2012 but Lyons failed to appear.

He was later traced to Manchester, arrested and brought back to Ireland.

In evidence, Lyons said he was very sorry for what had happened.

"I deeply regret it...I am sorry for what I done," he sobbed.

He explained that he only went to the UK out of fear.

"I was afraid to go to prison. I was afraid to face it. But I have come on an awful lot (in prison)," he added.

In a victim impact statement, the theft was described as having an enormous impact on the pensioner.

"It had a very bad effect on (him). This was money saved up for a rain day. Money for (his) funeral expenses. He has suffered from depression ever since."

Don McCarthy BL, for Lyons, said his client has now repaid the outstanding €9,000 to the pensioner thanks to a loan from his father-in-law.

Lyons has been in custody since May but has availed of training courses and counselling in prison in an effort to turn his life around.

But Judge O'Donnabhain warned that the crime targeted a vulnerable older person and reflected why so many pensioner feel prisoners in their own homes.

"There is no reading of this evidence other than that an elderly man was deliberately identified for his age and his vulnerability and then preyed upon," he said.

The judge said he couldn't even imagine the trauma suffered by (the victim) who saw a person he thought was a garda stealing his life savings and the money he had saved up for his funeral expenses.

"This was a very, very mean offence," he said.

The judge also said Lyons had played "fast and loose" with the system, saying in the District Court he did not have a cocaine problem so he could get bail and then saying he had a drug addiction problem to get the mercy of another court.

He jailed Lyons for five years but agreed to suspend the final 18 months in light of his plea, his remorse and his repayment of all monies.

He backdated the sentence to May 23 last when Lyons went into custody.

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