herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Fake reporter tried to extort €10k from elderly sex offender

courts

John Murphy leaving Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
John Murphy leaving Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

A man pretended to be a journalist to extort money from an elderly sex offender by threatening to put his picture in the newspaper "beside Larry Murphy", a court has heard.

John Murphy (31) and another man told Patrick Brendan Tiernan (82) they would publish his picture in national and local newspapers if he did not hand over €10,000.

Tiernan eventually gave €1,000 to Murphy, who was arrested by gardai in a sting operation when he returned to collect more money.

Murphy, of Maudlins, New Ross, Co Wexford, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft at an address in Foxrock, Dublin, last October 28.

Judge Desmond Hogan agreed to put the matter back to July 17 so Murphy can be assessed by the Probation Service for his suitability for the Restorative Justice Programme.

"He was well able to call to the man's house to demand money, let's see if he's able to call to his house to apologise," the judge said, adding that he was not ruling out a prison term and called it a "particularly mean offence".

He said Tiernan's sins had come back to haunt him and Murphy and others had sought to profit from this.

He said Murphy was the frontman for a sophisticated operation that involved surveillance and filming of Tiernan before the demands for money.

Tiernan, from Co Cavan, is a former school principal who was jailed in 1999 for six years for sexually abusing pupils over a 30-year period.

Det Gda Martha Cleary told prosecuting counsel Diarmuid Collins that on October 28, 2014, Tiernan received a call from Murphy who claimed to be a journalist called Andrew.

Murphy said he was with a newspaper and was working on a story about sex offenders.

He said he had photos of young males going in and out of Tiernan's home and suggested he knew sex offender Larry Murphy.

Tiernan said he had served time in prison with Murphy. He later confirmed to gardai that there were no young males calling to his house.

Murphy claimed he had a gadget that gave him access to the phone numbers and addresses of sex offenders, before hanging up.

A few minutes later a man claiming to be named Brian rang and asked Tiernan if he would like his picture in the paper beside Murphy. He suggested a figure of €10,000 to not publish it, but Tiernan said he did not have that sort of money.

"Brian" rang again and said the picture was going to be in all national papers as well as the local paper in Tiernan's native county. He suggested a figure of €5,000 and said he would call around for it.

Murphy called to the house the next day with a youth. He told Tiernan he had been under surveillance for six months and showed him a video of him in a pharmacists. He asked for €2,500 and was given €1,000.

While they were in the house, the youth went to t he bathroom and used the opportunity to steal another €500 from Tiernan's bedroom.

Murphy rang again a day later, saying he needed more money to stop publication and would call to collect it. In the meantime, Tiernan had told Det Gda Cleary about the threats and she was hiding in the house when Murphy called.

She jumped out and arrested him on his arrival. Tiernan identified him as the man claiming to be named Andrew.

Defence counsel Patrick Reynolds said Murphy was acting for others who planned the offence.

He said Murphy had €3,000 in court as compensation and can get another €2,000 if given time.

Counsel asked Judge Hogan not to impose an immediate jail term so Murphy can be present for the birth of his first child.

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