Belfast man jailed for preventing burial of neighbour

Robert Sharkey stole money and paid Marie Conlon’s rates as her body decomposed

Robert Sharkey (24) was convicted of 11 charges after failing to report his neighbour in Belfast had died, and then stealing from her. Photograph: Pacemaker

Robert Sharkey (24) was convicted of 11 charges after failing to report his neighbour in Belfast had died, and then stealing from her. Photograph: Pacemaker

 

A 24-year-old man who prevented the burial of his neighbour whose body lay undiscovered in her west Belfast home for over two years was handed a two-year sentence on Monday.

Robert Sharkey appeared at Belfast Crown Court, sitting in Downpatrick, on charges linked to his neighbour Marie Conlon (68), whose remains were discovered in an extreme state of decomposition in the bedroom of her Larkspur Rise home in October 2017. Knowing his neighbour was dead and stealing both cash and her bank card, Sharkey – who had lived in the flat above Ms Conlon for around five years – used the card fraudulently online for a period of two years.

He paid Ms Conlon’s rates bill in a bid to avoid detection and ordered the same nine-inch pepperoni and anchovy pizza and two tins of juice for delivery from Dominos Pizza every day between 4pm and 6pm for two years totalling almost £6,000 (€6,800) – earning him the nickname “the fish guy” from staff at the eatery.

Handing Sharkey a two-year sentence, which will be divided into 12 months in custody followed by 12 months on licence upon his release, Judge Piers Grant said Sharkey “denied the deceased and her family the opportunity to have a decent burial”.

“I have no doubt that all right-thinking people will be outraged by what you did,” he said. “You were aware that this decent lady had died, and all would expect that the first reaction would be to contact her family or report her death to those in a position to contact her family.

“You did not do that but saw it as an opportunity for you to benefit by stealing a significant amount of money from the deceased.”

Sharkey – who now has an address in Gray’s Hill in Bangor – had provided a cheque for £2,000 (€2,259) to the court which will be paid to Ms Conlon’s estate. In total, Sharkey defrauded in excess of £11,700 (€13,200) from her estate over a period from October 2015 until October 2017. Due to the sell-by date on food found in Ms Conlon’s home, and the last time her bank card was used legally, police believe the pensioner passed away in January 2015.

His offending began to emerge on Friday, October 6th last year, when Ms Conlon’s remains were discovered by police following concerns for her safety raised by her family.

During sentencing, the judge said he had read a report from Sharkey’s employer in his capacity as a personal assistant, and had also considered a psychiatric report which cited “long-standing” alcohol abuse, a poor family history and behavioural difficulties.

“You express remorse and it is clear that you fully understand the wickedness of the offences that you have committed,” the judge said. “What you did affronts the sensibilities of all right-thinking people.

“Whether people be religious or not, everyone has immense sympathy for the death of any individual and their families, and everyone recognises the importance, in terms of assuaging the grief of such families in the deceased person being treated with respect and afforded a decent burial.”

Sharkey was jailed for 11 offences, including preventing the lawful burial of a corpse, theft and fraud by false representation.