Carer (46) jailed for stealing over €45,000 from woman with dementia

Judge says Catherine Gregg took advantage of woman at the most ‘extremely vulnerable time of her life’

A woman has been jailed for 2½ years after admitting to stealing more than €45,000 from a vulnerable woman with dementia.

Catherine Gregg (46), of The Cottage, Ballinaclashet, Belgooly, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court earlier this year to 17 sample counts of stealing money between September 2018 and January 2022.

Judge Colin Daly said Gregg was guilty of a huge breach of trust and the court heard she almost cleared out the woman’s bank account, leaving just 80 cent in it.

Det Garda Hugh Byrne, of Bandon station, told the court Gregg was hired through a company by the couple’s adult children, who live abroad, to look after their parents after their father suffered a fall and broke his leg and their mother deteriorated with dementia.


Gregg had access to the couple’s finances via a Bank of Ireland debit card. After the man died in May 2019, and the woman moved to a care home in Wales to be near her daughter, their children cleared out the house to prepare it for sale and handed over documents to their solicitor.

The solicitor discovered details relating to an Ulster Bank account in their mother’s name and saw that substantial sums had been withdrawn even though their mother was incapable of accessing it.

Det Garda Byrne said the family reported the matter and when gardaí examined the account they found a total of 103 payments, including €28,000 that had been paid in 15 electronic funds transfers to Gregg’s bank account. Some of the transactions involved €3,500 being transferred.

Gardaí also discovered there had been 16 withdrawals from the Ulster Bank account. While Gregg had used the card to pay for small items such as groceries, she also had withdrawn €4,000 to pay for horse tack. The total loss to the family was more than €45,000, he said.

The thefts began two months after the death of the man, who had looked after the couple’s finances, and continued until January of last year. Gregg drained the account several times but went back to it when pension payments came in. She ultimately left just 80 cent in the account.

Det Garda Byrne said Gregg made full admissions when she was arrested and questioned about the thefts. She had a number of previous convictions for theft from the early 2000s, when she stole small sums from housemates and a family who she babysat for.

When cross-examined by defence barrister Paula McCarthy BL, Det Garda Byrne agreed that Gregg was remorseful. He accepted that she was under the care of her GP and suffering from anxiety as well as being a single mother caring for an 18-year-old daughter and her father, who had dementia.

“She expresses her remorse and her shame for her actions,” Ms McCarthy said. “I am instructed she would have liked to repay the money, but she is not in a financial position to bring the money before the court. She expresses her full, unequivocal apology to the family, for whatever that is worth.”

Judge Daly noted that the couple’s children found documentation about the Bank of Ireland account but none about the Ulster Bank account when clearing out the house. He said it appeared the Ulster Bank documents were removed to conceal the existence of the account from the family.

“She took advantage of an elderly woman at the most exceptionally and extremely vulnerable time of her life,” he said, adding the crime involved a high level of culpability and caused serious harm in that it deprived the woman of funds for her future care in a nursing home.

“There was an enormous breach of trust, and she comes before the court with previous convictions for similar offences. They may have been historical, but they show a similar lack of regard and abuse of trust that others might place in her and that is an aggravating factor.”

The judge said there was an irony in the case as Gregg would now “have to place her trust in somebody else to look after her father”.

He noted Gregg’s apology but said it was clear from their victim impact statement, which was not read out in court, that the couple’s children had little time for her apology or expressions of remorse.

Judge Daly imposed a three year sentence, with the last six months suspended, and agreed to a defence request to defer the sentence until January 4th to allow Gregg put arrangements in place to look after her daughter and father.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times