A man who was conned out of his savings by a ruthless fraudster has been overwhelmed by offers and donations from people deeply touched by his plight.
Tommy Abbott, 61, from Cork's north inner city, broke down and wept as he revealed how he had given €800 of his €900 savings to a man who had called to his door posing as a solicitor.
The crime has been described as "just the tip of the iceberg" as elderly, vulnerable people living alone are increasingly targeted in Ireland's fiscal and economic recession.
Tommy -- who lives alone -- had been saving the money in the post office so he would not have to spend Christmas alone.
He wept as he admitted to the Sunday Independent that he did not believe he would see one cent of his hard-saved money again.
"He got me all worked up -- he said my money was better off in a building society. I thought I'd better do what he says and I showed him my post office book.
"He told me to take out €800 from the account and he said he would be waiting for me when I got back," Tommy said.
Tommy was convinced the man was a genuine solicitor and investment adviser -- and felt he had better do as the man suggested.
"But I was coming up by the cathedral and I met him. He was coming down and it was there he demanded the money. At that stage, he gave me the creeps," he said.
"I said no more. At that stage I was worried that if I didn't give him the money he might get violent with me," he added.
Tommy's only living relative, an elderly sister, now resides in a nursing home.
He had been saving up the €800 for an entire year so he could go to a hotel for the festive season -- and enjoy some good food and company on Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day.
"It broke me down. I've said to myself that I will never get that [money] back. I wish he was caught -- the old bastard, that's all he is," Tommy sobbed.
He now has just €100 of his savings left.
However, the publicity over Tommy's plight has triggered a flood of donations and offers of Christmas services.
One hotel -- the Rochestown Park -- has offered to put Tommy up over the festive season and provide him with a lavish Christmas dinner.
Two Cork restaurants have also offered Tommy meals -- while theatres and entertainment venues have also chipped in tickets.
Last night, Tommy admitted that, having been heartbroken by the conman, he had been "overwhelmed" by the kindness of ordinary Irish people. "I just cannot believe it -- it's like a dream come true," he said.
Gurranabraher gardai are hunting the cruel conman -- and have appealed for anyone with information about the fake solicitor and investment adviser to contact them.
The public were infuriated by revelations about the cruel scam -- and one man yesterday reported a sighting of the conman that detectives are now following up.
Elderly rights campaigners have expressed horror at the manner in which the old and vulnerable are now being deliberately targeted.
Cork elderly support advocate Paddy O'Brien said the number of incidents in which old people had been robbed or defrauded had spiralled since the economic downturn.
"It is a desperate situation that elderly people cannot live out their lives with a bit of peace, dignity and security," Mr O'Brien said.