Burglar sold jewellery worth €190,000 for €500 worth of heroin

Gerry Connors (28) said of Killiney break-in that he thought the jewellery was ‘scrap’

A burglar who stole a safe containing €190,000 worth of jewellery which he sold “as scrap” for €500 worth of heroin has been jailed for four years.

Gerry Connors (28) told gardaí­ he had hopped over the garden wall of the house in Killiney, Dublin to urinate and peered in a window. He spotted a glass jar full of coins and smashed a window with a rock.

He then went through the house and discovered the safe, which also had €10,000 in various currencies, in a press.

Connors said he shouted to some friends of his, that had been with him before he hopped over the wall, and asked them for help. He then “pegged” the safe over the balcony before “pegging” it over the wall.

He told gardaí­ in interview that he and his friends left in a van and brought the safe back to a halting site where he went through it. He thought the jewellery was “scrap” and exchanged it for €500 worth of heroin.

Detective Garda Kieran Murphy told James Dwyer BL, prosecuting, that the couple who owned the house were on holiday at the time.

He said €50,000 worth of damage was caused to the property as it had been completely “thrashed”.

He confirmed that the family were therefore at a total loss of €250,000 but said their insurance company paid out.

Connors had also carried out burglary two months earlier in Shankill where he stole car keys and items to the value of €2,000.

He initially took a trial date but didn't show up for his case in November 2011. Gardaí­ later discovered he had fled to England and was serving a prison term there.

A European arrest warrant was secured and he was ultimately returned to Ireland in October 2014.

Connors, with an address at Rathmichael Halting Site, in Shankill then pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to burglary in Shankill on April 1st, 2009 and burglary in Killiney on June 16th, 2009.

He has 115 previous convictions, including 90 for road and traffic offences, and 12 for burglary. He got a three-year sentence for burglary in June 2010.

Judge Martin Nolan said Connors had caused gratuitous damage and "struck it lucky" when he discovered the safe.

“He didn’t appreciate what he had found and got very small recompense for what he stole,” the judge added before he said that good garda work led to strong evidence against him.

Det Garda Murphy said there was CCTV footage on both houses which allowed gardaí­ to identify the getaway van in the Killiney burglary. Gardaí­ were aware Connors had access to that van and arrested him in August 2009.

The detective said “nothing of evidential value” came out of the arrest in relation to the Killiney burglary but he made admissions when shown the CCTV footage from the Shankill one.

Gardaí­ later sent blood stains found in the Killiney house which linked Connors to the scene.

He was re-arrested in December 2009 and made admissions. He was granted bail and then failed to show up for his trial the following November.

Det Garda Murphy agreed with Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending, that other people assisted Connors in the burglary in Killiney, yet no one else has been charged.

He accepted a suggestion that Connors was “not the brains behind the operation” and that he would have been “a follower”.

Det Garda Murphy further accepted that Connors was carrying out the burglaries to feed his own habit.

Mr Fitzgerald handed in reports that outlined the efforts Connors has made to rehabilitate since his remand in custody. There was also a letter from his client which stated that he believes if he gives up drugs he will not come to garda attention again.

“He was an opportunist and saw something that would enable him to get drugs and he took it,” Mr Fitzgerald said before he asked Judge Nolan to take into account the fact that the houses were unoccupied at the time.