By Olivia Kelleher
TWO brothers have been jailed for two years each, after they followed a Goleen pensioner (72) home and persuaded her to part with thousands of euro for power tools, chainsaws and generators that she didn’t want.
The court heard the duo, from Co Limerick, filled up her room with the tools and intimidated her into paying over €20,000 for them.
Thomas O’Driscoll (39) Boherbuoi in Rathkeale, Co Limerick and Patrick O’Driscoll (38) Wolfburgess East, also in Rathkeale, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court this week, having previously pleaded guilty to a charge of deception at Goleen in November 2018.
The court heard the men travelled to West Cork on November 20th and stayed the night in Skibbereen. The following day they engaged a woman in her seventies in conversation at a jewellery shop in the town.
Patrick O’Driscoll produced a brochure on machinery and charmed the lady into giving him her phone number. He told her he would be in Goleen later in the day.
At 3.30pm she phoned Mr O’Driscoll and said there was no need to call. However, he told her he was already reversing his van down her drive.
The woman was perplexed as her house was difficult to find, and about 40km from Skibbereen. At her home, she was introduced to a second man called ‘George’.
She told the pair that she was moving out at the end of month and didn’t need machinery or tools.
The pair began to ‘charm’ the pensioner with talk of Our Lady of Lourdes. Over the course of thirty minutes they became quite ‘pushy’ with her, the court heard.
‘George’, who gardaí now know was Thomas O’Driscoll, began filling a room in her home with machinery and tools, while Patrick continued talking to the woman.
The woman started to feel vulnerable as Patrick became more aggressive. The men told her to write cheques, which she made out for almost €25,000. She wrote six cheques in total.
The men made her tear up some of her cheques and write them again, when they saw she had ‘crossed’ them for security. The woman later told gardai that she was ‘bewildered’ and couldn’t believe what had happened.
Two days later, she contacted AIB in Skibbereen. Two of the cheques, amounting to €6,500, had already been cashed. The further cheques were then cancelled by the bank who advised her to contact gardaí.
The men made no admissions to gardaí when they were initially arrested, in January of 2019. At this point gardai had seized the chainsaws and machinery which the men had left in the house in Goleen.
In a victim impact statement, the court heard that the woman was in Skibbereen on the date in question when she was approached by the man about buying machinery.
Shortly after she had got a lift home, she saw the light of a van reversing into her drive at speed. She said she was very worried ,but that her instincts told her ‘not to show fear’. She was going through ‘a lot of trauma’ at the time and wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to deal with them. She was frightened and embarrassed by the incident.
The court heard the men have paid €6,000 in compensation. Barristers for the men said they had €4,000 each, in relation to bail, which could also paid to the woman.
The woman now lives in sheltered housing, the court heard, though this wasn’t a result of the incident.
Barrister Mahon Corkery for Thomas O’Driscoll said the offence wasn’t professional or thought out and that a plea meant the woman didn’t have to give evidence.
Barrister Ray Boland for Patrick O’Driscoll said that there was a significant amount of compensation being paid. He admitted it was a serious offence but made an appeal for leniency given that his client had never been before the Circuit Court previously.
However, Judge O’Donnabhain said it was a ‘phenomenally serious’ offence and that the men had followed an elderly and vulnerable woman home to a remote location. It was a total invasion of her privacy, he said.
He said they overbearing and didn’t give her time to breathe, much less think.
He cited as an aggravating factor the fact that the men had the pensioner tear up the cheques and start them again when she crossed them.
He jailed the men for two years each.
Following the case, Supt Ronan Kennelly of Bantry Garda Station made an appeal to the public to be wary of bogus tradesmen.
Supt Kennelly said the conviction was a vindication of the woman’s efforts to have gardai investigate this type of offence.
‘We would urge people to forget about embarrassment, come forward whatever the amount is and we will investigate it,’ he urged.