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Thursday 21 November 2019

Jail for man who pulled skull off 800-year-old mummified Crusader

Damaged entrance to the crypts at St Michan’s. Photo: Collins
Damaged entrance to the crypts at St Michan’s. Photo: Collins

A man who pulled the head off an 800-year-old mummy known as The Crusader has been jailed for 28 months.

After his arrest, Brian Bridgeman (36) said he did not know where he was when he woke up in St Michan's Church on Church Street, Dublin.

"I thought I was dreaming - it wasn't reality," he told gardai.

He said he did not remember damaging the coffins or the skeletons, and that he "was out of my head" on alcohol and Xanax tablets.

After leaving the church, he fell asleep in town. When he woke up, he found two skulls in his bag.

800 year old 'Crusader' from St Michan's Church
800 year old 'Crusader' from St Michan's Church

Panicked

He said he panicked and wanted to return them, but was afraid of being caught.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that a few weeks later, he left the skulls in a bag in a hedgerow near the church with a note reading: "Sorry RIP."

Bridgeman, of Fortlawn Park, Blanchardstown, was identified on CCTV.

He later pleaded guilty to burglary between February 23 and 24.

He also admitted five counts of criminal damage, including two of damaging a dead body.

The court heard the crypt's tour guide discovered the break-in on February 25.

The outer wrought iron doors of the crypt were open and an inner metal door had been pulled down.

A lock on one of the family vaults was damaged and parts of a coffin were lying on the ground.

The guide was "horrified" to find that the mummy known as The Crusader had been decapitated and that the skull was missing.

Another skull, which had been placed on top of a coffin, was also missing.

The 300-year-old mummy known as The Nun had also been tampered with.

Some of its bones were broken and the head was set at an 180 degree angle to the body.

In a victim impact statement, the Vicar of St Michan's, the Rev David Pierpoint, said the burglary was devastating to both clergy and parishioners.

He said the parish relied on income from guided tours of the crypt and from parishioner's donations.

The break-in cost the church €35,000 in lost revenue and €15,000 in repairs and security.

Michael Hourigan, defending, said his client deeply regretted what he had done because it was a crime against the heritage of the local area.

He said Bridgeman was deeply ashamed of desecrating human remains.

Mr Hourigan said his client came from a good family, but started falling into drug addiction at a young age.

He said his client has had mental and behavioural dis- orders as a result of this addiction.

Burglary

Judge Martin Nolan said Bridgeman may have been in a stup- or induced by alcohol and drugs, but that was no excuse.

"These skulls represent a lot to people of religious belief," he said.

The judge said the sight of The Crusader's skull hacked from its body caused considerable distress .

"I suspect he is a menace at times," said Judge Nolan, referring to his previous convictions.

He said that looking at Bridgeman, "it is difficult to analyse his behaviour".

He concluded by saying that a church is a place of significance to people of faith and that the accused should not have burgled the church.

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