Thursday 27 October 2016

Nun (76) robbed by heroin addict as she walked to mass

Garda checkpoint -
Garda checkpoint -
The 30-year-old was discovered by gardai in an alleyway holding the nun's mobile phone

A heroin addict who robbed a 76-year-old nun as she was walking to morning mass along with another elderly Sister, has been jailed for two years.

Joseph Roche (30), of no fixed abode, subjected the two nuns to a "frightening and traumatic" ordeal when he grabbed Sister Paula Clarke's handbag on O'Connell Street in Limerick on January 3, Limerick Circuit Court heard.

Before jailing the separated father-of-four, Judge Tom O'Donnell said it was an opportunistic and insidious crime.

"This was effectively daylight robbery, an insidious and opportunistic crime where the victim was an easy target, a lady in her senior years," he said.

The robbery took place as Sr Paula and Sr Bernadette O'Driscoll (79) were walking to 10am mass in the Augustinian Church.

Sr Paula, who was carrying a shoulder-length handbag, suddenly felt a tug from behind that pulled her backwards, nearly causing her to lose her balance, the court heard.

The 76-year-old cried for help, but there was nobody around to render assistance and Roche ran off with her handbag.

The nuns continued to the church where they called the Gardai.

Roche was discovered by gardai an hour-and-a-half later in an alleyway off Davis Street, a short distance away, holding Sr Paula's mobile phone.


When discovered, he said: "You have me, I'm caught, there's no point in running."

He told gardai he had discarded the handbag, which contained €40 in cash along with a number of personal effects, including a bus pass, keys and a holy water bottle.

The handbag was handed in to Colbert Train Station some days later with all the belongings still inside, except for the cash, which Mr Roche admitted he had used to buy drugs.

In his evidence, Garda Denis Counihan described the victim as a "formidable and robust lady" who suffered an injury to her finger, but didn't require hospital attention.

The court heard Mr Roche was a recovering heroin addict whose recent relapse had caused the break-up of his marriage and his alienation from his four children.

A probation report concluded that given the level of his addiction he would require long-term residential care.

Roche, who pleaded guilty to the robbery, had a number of previous convictions, including one for robbery.

Judge O'Donnell sentenced Roche to three years in prison, but suspended the final 12 months provided he remains of good behaviour for a period of four years.

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