Care worker stole €5,000 and preyed on elderly neighbours
A former care worker who broke into the homes of his elderly neighbours and set fire to the bedsheets of one of his victims before fleeing has been jailed for five years.
John Houlihan (29) preyed on his vulnerable neighbours, some of whom were related to his family by marriage, and stole up to €5,000 in cash.
The former care worker at St Joseph's Nursing Home in Killorglin also admitted breaking into the house of a woman and sexually assaulting her.
Houlihan of Douglas, Killorglin, Co Kerry, admitted a total of nine counts of burglary at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court earlier this month.
All his victims were vulnerable people aged between 60 and 87 whose lives had been dramatically changed.
None of Houlihan's elderly victims gave victim impact statements in court because they said to do so would have been too upsetting and because they knew his family.
Houlihan admitted a total of nine counts of burglary between January 2010 and 2013 in and around where he lived.
He also pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 29-year-old woman at The Forge nightclub in Killorglin before he followed her home, broke into her house and sexually assaulted her again on December 22, 2012.
The woman woke up at around 5am to find Houlihan attacking her.
The court heard he had been receiving counselling for a serious gambling addiction.
One of his elderly victims, Michael Lucey (60), who suffers from schizophrenia, told gardai he woke to find Houlihan shouting and threatening him.
He said he then set fire to his sheets before fleeing the house. Mr Lucey put out the flames with his hands.
Another elderly victim spoke of how she has felt like a prisoner in her own home since Houlihan broke in and stole her purse.
Bridie Mannix (69) and her sister were locked in a bedroom during the burglary.
Since then the sisters take it in turns to sleep at night so that one person is keeping watch all the time.
One of his victims, an 87-year-old woman, left her home following the burglary and moved into residential care.
A 73-year-old woman was shocked when she learned Houlihan had carried out the burglary at her home as he used to do odd jobs around the house for her.
Some of his victims told gardai that because they knew Houlihan, it made the crimes even worse.
Handing down sentence at Limerick District Court, Judge Carroll Moran said his elderly victims had lost their sense of security. He sentenced Houlihan to seven years but suspended the final two, accepting a letter of apology written by him as a sign of his regret and shame.