Friday 2 December 2016

'We are missing something that, unlike stolen possessions, can never be replaced' - Family of man who died of shock while home burgled by gang

David Raleigh

Published 28/10/2016 | 19:11

A sister of man who died from shock while their home was being burgled by a gang pleaded with the intruders to help, but nobody came to their aid, a court heard.

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Details of the heartbreaking evidence was heard at the sentencing hearing of cousins David and Michael Casey, at Limerick circuit court.

Both men pleaded guilty to breaking into John O'Donoghue's home on August 27, 2015.

The 62-year old bachelor collapsed and died of a heart attack as he watched the two defendants ransacking his cottage in Doon, Co Limerick.

David Casey was on bail for two robberies at the time, the court heard.

Shell-shocked at her brother's sudden death, Christina O'Donoghue told gardai: "I called on 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 defendants were part of a three-man gang that went around the country targeting isolated rural communities. Their "modus operandi was to hit cottages and older houses which had no visible signs of security systems", John O'Sullivan, prosecuting, told the court.

The two cousins pleaded guilty to a spate of burglaries in the South East Limerick and Tipperary border regions on the day. A third man, not before the court, who drove the gang's getaway car is still at large, the court was told.

Mr O'Donoghue and his sister Christina, had returned home around 2pm from a shopping errand in Tipperary Town when they interrupted the gang.

Sergeant Mike Reidy told the court: "They became suspicious someone was in the house. John approached a side door and saw it had been broken. His sister told him to be careful. At this stage the drive of the getaway car was sounding the horn and raving up and down outside trying to alert the other two men."

"John O'Donoghue got a shovel out of his shed as he was concerned for his safety. He stood near the house. His sister knew by him that he wasn't feeling great. He collapsed down in the yard."

"His sister tried her best to resuscitate him."

The driver of the getaway vehicle sped off while the two cousins who had been "ransacking the house" fled through fields at the rear of the cottage.

A number of local people alerted gardai after spotting the pair running along the road.

Local gardai Bill Collins and Elaine O'Donovan, who had arrived on scene and tried in vain to resuscitate Mr O'Donoghue, later apprehended the defendant's about 2km away on the side of the road.

A post mortem was carried out by State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, which revealed Mr O'Donoghue had "an enlarged heart and significant coronary disease". However, the autopsy concluded Mr O'Donoghue's death "cannot be separated from the circumstances that occurred". "The stress of the situation would have caused an increase in his heart rate and he would have been at greater risk," Prof Cassidy noted.

In a victim impact statement written on behalf of the O'Donoghue family, Angela Denning, a niece of the deceased, said: "Words cannot describe the impact of this break-in on our family. We lost a kind, clever, talented and very witty man. We miss him terribly. A very happy home is now missing something that, unlike stolen possessions, can never be replaced."

Judge Tom O'Donnell heard the two defendants had not intended anyone to be harmed and that they were deeply remorseful when told of Mr O'Donoghue's death.

Adjourning sentencing to December 15th, the judge expressed his sympathies to the O'Donoghue family: "I don't wish to unnecessarily prolong matters but I have a duty to consider everything I have heard."

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