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Thursday 14 November 2019

Hairdresser from hell who stole from OAP dodges jail sentence

Elaine Long pleaded guilty to five counts of theft
Elaine Long pleaded guilty to five counts of theft

A hairdresser who betrayed an elderly customer by using her bank card to steal from her has been given community service instead of a jail sentence.

Elaine Long (47) heartlessly took the card to make cash withdrawals and book flights for herself as 88-year-old Bernie Clarke's health deteriorated.

A court heard Ms Clarke, who had lost the power of speech to a progressive brain disorder and communicated by writing, "loved" to see the accused call to do her hair, a weekly treat to herself.

After the betrayal was revealed, she "lost trust in people" and has since died.

Judge Geraldine Carthy ordered Long to do 240 hours of community service instead of five months in prison.

Ms Clarke's daughter, Marian Murray, said the family was "devastated" by the crimes and felt Long should have been jailed.

Horrified

Long, a mother-of-two, from Blackhorse Grove, North Circular Road, pleaded guilty to five counts of theft, with a total of €924 proved stolen.

Garda Padraic Walsh told Dublin District Court that in June 2017 Ms Murray reported the compromised use of her mother's AIB bank card in a cash withdrawal.

She went to the shop where the withdrawal was made and was "horrified" to identify Long.

Gardai established the accused had used the card to withdraw €500 at Spar, Ashtown, on June 4 and €100 from a Maxol service station on the Navan Road on June 14.

It was also used to buy a €133 Dublin to Liverpool Ryanair flight in Long's name on June 5 and another flight for €131.

Long used the card to make a payment on her own Virgin Media account on May 30, 2017.

When questioned, Long denied using the card and did not "show any remorse", the garda said.

Bernie Clarke was unaware she was being ripped off
Bernie Clarke was unaware she was being ripped off

Ms Clarke passed away last year, the court heard.

Ms Murray said her mother had progressive supranuclear palsy, akin to muscular dystrophy, and could not speak.

Her mother began getting hair care at home from Long when she became sick in 2015 and Long was given a key to the home, "such was the trust we developed with her".

"Elaine and mum described each other as each other's adopted mother/daughter," Ms Murray said. "Mum loved to see Elaine coming to do her hair.

"As mum became more immobile she lost the power of speech and had to communicate with writing, which left her very vulnerable.

"It was at this point Elaine Long took advantage of the trust placed in her. We are devastated by this betrayal.

"I was speechless when I saw it was Elaine Long on the CCTV footage using our mum's bank card.

Manipulated

"I had dinner on occasions with Elaine and could not believe she would breach the trust our family and mum placed in her.

"We feel manipulated. Mum lost her trust in people at a time when she really needed to be able to trust people."

Long had no previous convictions and at the time her sister was undergoing cancer treatment, defence solicitor Amanda Connolly said.

The accused had been under financial pressure. She acknowledged she had abused a position of trust, was deeply ashamed and regretted the hurt she had caused.

Long had compensation in court and Ms Clarke's family wanted that to go to charity.

Judge Carthy said the breach of trust had had a significant impact and nothing would bring Ms Clarke back.

It was appropriate the accused would "give back to society" rather than being sent to prison, she said.

Ms Murray said she did not think community service was enough. "I would have liked to have seen her serve time in prison," she said.

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