Monday 16 September 2019

Judge praises 'great resilience' of 84-year-old woman who surprised burglar in her home

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Jessica Magee

An 84-year-old woman who surprised a burglar in kitchen told gardaí, “he was more surprised to see me.”

The lady was praised by a judge today for demonstrating “great resilience” in the wake of the burglary of her home two years ago.

Wayne Murphy, described by his own counsel as a “prolific burglar”, pleaded guilty to trespass and theft at Temple Cottages, Broadstone, Dublin 7 on July 10, 2016.

The 43-year-old, of North Frederick Street, Dublin, was sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four years in prison with the final 12 months suspended.

In her ruling, Judge Melanie Greally said that although the elderly lady had been “extremely shaken” by the burglary, she had shown great resilience.

“She has subsequently become more security conscious, but she very stoically said she hasn't let it get to her,” said the judge.

Garda Kathy Byrne told Ger Small BL, prosecuting, that the lady had lived in the house since 1958, and had been living alone since her husband died.

On the day in question, she had put some potatoes on to cook and opened the window to let the steam out. She went into her sitting room and was saying some prayers when she turned around and saw a man looking at her in surprise.

She told gardaí that she started screaming and the intruder grabbed her wallet, containing her travel pass and €125 in cash. She tried to grab the man but he got away. The woman's neighbours came to her assistance and the thief was apprehended.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said she thinks about the burglary “from time to time” but has refused to let it affect her as she has “no choice” but to get on with life.

The court heard she no longer opens the kitchen window and has had an extractor fan installed.

Murphy has 67 previous convictions of which 35 are for burglary.

Derek Cooney BL, defending, described his client as a “prolific burglar” and an “opportunistic thief” who took advantage of an open window and got a fright when he found the house occupied.

He said Murphy was the youngest of a large family and saw two of his brothers die from drugs and a sister in an advanced stage of addiction.

He said Murphy started taking drugs aged 14, including ecstasy, heroin and crack cocaine.

Mr Cooney said Murphy burgled to fund his addiction but was now drug-free and on methadone. He said Murphy was putting his time in prison to good use and was attending art classes.

The court heard Murphy himself was the victim of an attack when he was shot in the face and body as he walked through a park in October 2016.

He told gardaí that he had been warned not to commit any further burglaries as there might be people still out there when he was released from jail who would seek to “finish him off”.

Judge Greally set a headline sentence of six years but reduced it on account of Murphy's guilty plea, his cooperation, and the steps he was taking to address his addiction.

He's currently serving a four-year sentence and is due for release this time next year, whereupon this latest sentence will be imposed.

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