Wednesday 21 August 2019

Woman (76) with heart condition chases down thief who snatched her bag in shopping centre

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Ralph Riegel

A 76-year-old woman with a heart condition chased down a thief in a shopping centre after he stole her handbag containing €400, her credit cards and irreplaceable family mementos.

Judge James McCourt paid tribute to Sheila O'Mahony (76) as "a strong and robust individual" as he jailed bungling thief Philip Murphy (49) for 18 months.

Murphy of Orchard Court, Blackpool, Cork had denied two counts of theft and assault to Ms O'Mahony at Tesco Shopping Centre in Wilton on September 15 2018.

A Cork Circuit Criminal Court jury convicted him of the theft charge but found him not guilty on the common assault charge.

Judge McCourt was told by Det Garda James Bugler that Murphy has 107 previous convictions.

The detective described Murphy as "a career criminal."

The court heard that Ms O'Mahony was shopping with her sister on September 15.

She noticed a man in a dark coat and sunglasses slowly moving alongside her shopping trolley.

The pensioner she said she spotted her handbag containing cash, her heart medication and priceless family mementos suddenly being snatched from the trolley.

"He ran down the aisle. I did not give chase that way. I went the other way towards the (shopping centre) door," she said.

The pensioner then grabbed Murphy by the sleeve as he came near her - and an alert security officer detained him until Gardaí arrived.

As Murphy was being held, a lady's handbag fell out from underneath his coat.

Ms O'Mahony scoffed at suggestions from Murphy's defence team that she had pushed the 49-year-old during the incident.

"How could I, a 76-year-old woman, push a young man like that and I with a heart complaint," she asked?

Ms O'Mahony acknowledged her sister was upset when she spotted her giving chase to the thief.

Murphy was handed a prison sentence last month after attempting to grab a handbag from a baby's pram as a young mother was in the English Market in Cork city centre.

The theft was foiled when an alert butcher grabbed Murphy in a bear hug and held him until Gardaí arrived.

Murphy's previous convictions include 22 burglaries and 28 thefts.

The 49 year old was on bail when he tried to steal Ms O'Mahony's handbag.

Judge McCourt noted that Murphy displayed not one ounce of remorse.

"It is fortunate that Ms O'Mahony is a strong and robust individual," he said.

The judge warned that Murphy had no regard for the possible consequences of his theft on the victim - or whether his victim was a youngster or a pensioner.

"He had no regard for the possible consequences," he said.

The judge said the incident was "a terrible ordeal" for the pensioner.

He jailed Murphy for 18 months with the sentence to commence once the defendant has completed a 15 month prison term he is currently serving.

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