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Thief in debt stole handbag as he was 'afraid for his life'


Fergus Burke stole the bag from a woman shopping in Aldi

Fergus Burke stole the bag from a woman shopping in Aldi

Fergus Burke stole the bag from a woman shopping in Aldi

A thief who took a supermarket shopper's handbag off the back of a trolley was afraid for his life and had been put under pressure to steal it, a court heard.

Fergus Burke (52) claimed some men he had met in prison forced him to steal the handbag, which contained a mobile phone and €200 in cash, to pay off a debt he owed.

Judge Dermot Dempsey described the theft as "a mean act" and adjourned sentencing to next January.

The judge said he was "taking no excuses", and Burke should have €400 in compensation in court for the victim.

Burke, with an address at Ashley Avenue, Swords, admitted theft at Aldi, Rathbeale Road, Swords, last February 20.

Garda Doireann Byrne told Swords District Court the victim was shopping in Aldi when her handbag was taken off the back of the trolley.

Gda Byrne said the area was searched but nothing was found.

She said gardaí viewed CCTV footage and Burke was identified as the thief.


The defendant was subsequently arrested and disclosed where he had dumped the handbag, worth €750, which was recovered.

Gda Byrne said a mobile phone and €200 or €300 in cash had been taken from the bag and the phone and money were not recovered.

The court heard Burke had 122 previous convictions, but had not been in trouble for a decade.

Defence solicitor Fiona D'Arcy said he was being threatened by people he had associated with while in prison and it was due to a debt he owed.

Ms D'Arcy said Burke  had been forced to commit the theft due to this.

She claimed there had been two individuals waiting in a Jeep in the car park, Burke was under threat to steal and he was "afraid for his life".

Gda Byrne said there was no evidence of this.

The solicitor said the debt had since been paid and those threats no longer existed.

Ms D'Arcy also said Burke wished to apologise and was willing to pay compensation to the victim.