Monday 23 April 2018

Sligo Councillor's stolen JCB ended up in Listowel

Councillor Michael Clarke
Councillor Michael Clarke

A court has ordered that a JCB teleporter advertised for sale on Done Deal in Kerry be returned to a West Sligo farmer from whom it was stolen five years ago.

County councillor Michael Clarke's teleporter was stolen from his yard in Dromore West on October 9th 2010.

He kept a look out on the Done Deal website and saw it advertised there in December 2013.

He travelled to Mr Shane O'Connor's yard in Listowel and confirmed it was the same piece of machinery.

Last Thursday Mr Clarke applied to have the property returned to him, as its rightful owner. The current owner, Mr O'Connor contested the application and had invoices in court to prove he had purchased the machinery in good faith.

"I traded it in in 2013 and I have the invoice to prove it," he told the court. "I carried out a check on the cartel website. It would show up there if it was stolen or had finance on it," he said. He said he spent €10,000 on the trade-in and a further €5,600 on repairs to it to prepare it for re-sale.

"I was satisfied it was in my ownership," said Mr O'Connor.

The court heard the teleporter had been through at least four owners in the intervening years. The first person who bought the machinery said he bought it off a person who was now deceased and therefore could not be cross-examined.

Giving his decision, Judge Kevin Kilrane said the teleporter was not insured or registered after Mr Clarke originally bought it up north, "which speaks volumes as to his attitude and was a bit haphazard."

But he said "most farmers would have difficulty recalling the serial number" of their machinery.

"He had not a scrap of paper, no insurance, finance, absolutely no paperwork as to what the serial number was. He gave 621 serial number and this is what the case is hanging on.

"Michael Clarke had been watching on Done Deal and that's what saves him today. He gave identifying features which were found by Gardaí on the machine. We heard a serial number of 621, a mistake, which is quite understandable," said the judge.

He said he was satisfied Mr Clarke's actions were bona fide.

"I'm satisfied the vehicle belongs to Mr Clarke. Mr O'Connor is an innocent victim of this scam by a person about whom I shall say no more. He carried out repairs. It's just a risk for anyone on Done Deal.

"However, my sympathy won't put bread on his table," he told the court.

Judge Kilrane agreed to a stay of two weeks on his order to return the teleporter to Mr Clarke, in the event of an appeal.

Mr Clarke went up and shook hands with Mr O'Connor at the back of the courtroom after the case.

Sligo Champion