Drug dealer loses compensation bid after gardaí ‘wrecked’ house

Convicted money launderer brought case after officers damage home during search

A convicted drug dealer and money launderer has failed in a civil action for compensation against An Garda Síochána over damage to his house during a search by fraud squad detectives as part of an investigation into money laundering.

Jonathan Heaphy (35), who has 11 previous convictions for drug offences including a number for supplying drugs, brought the action against the Garda arising out a search of his house on Kerryhall Road in Fairhill, Cork, on April 11th, 2014, as part of a money laundering investigation.

Mr Heaphy told Cork Circuit Court that gardaí arrived at his house around 10.20am on the day in question with a warrant and explained that they were carrying out a search as part of a money laundering investigation because of his involvement in drug dealing.

He said the search lasted around nine hours during which time they removed skirting boards, window boards and floor boards, drilled dozens of holes in partition walls, removed a bath panel and a sink pedestal in the bathroom but found nothing and left the house “wrecked”.


Mr Heaphy said the house was such a mess that he and his wife and their two children had to move in with his mother-in-law for several weeks as they tried to make the house – which they had bought in 2013 for €70,000 – habitable again.

Cross-examined by barrister for the Garda, Siobhán Lankford, Mr Heaphy accepted that gardaí had seized €29,500 hidden in the leg of TV stand and €3,000 hidden in a box of cornflakes during an earlier search of the house on March 3rd, 2014.

He also accepted gardaí had found €28,000 in a deep freeze at the home of his sister Nicole on February 24th, 2014, and he agreed that he had pleaded guilty to nine counts of money laundering of more than €90,000 seized in both these raids for which he was jailed last May for four years.


Consulting engineer for Mr Heaphy, Philip O’Doherty said he examined the house after the Garda raid and found drill holes in many of the walls, skirting boards and window boards had been removed as had floor boards on the landing and he estimated the cost of repairing the damage at €12,000.

Det Sgt Clodagh O’Sullivan said that she had obtained a warrant to search the house on foot of confidential information that money was hidden within the structure of the house and she had obtained a fibre optic camera from Customs to search in stud partition walls.

She had brought Garda Michael Walsh, a former electrician, to assist with the search and he had drilled holes in the partition walls before putting in the camera to search in the cavities. They had not found any cash hidden in the house, she said.

Cross-examined by Mr Heaphy’s barrister, Donal O’Sullivan, Det Sgt O’Sullivan denied that she had any animus or ill will towards Mr Heaphy and she said that she had especially obtained the fibre optic camera to minimise the damage to the partition walls in the property.

Garda Walsh said that he had to drill more holes than he expected because the cross batons in the partition walls created a large number of cavities in each wall and he sometimes had to drill a number of holes to manoeuvre the fibre optic camera in to search each space thoroughly.

He personally had replaced the bath panel and the sink pedestal and he would have replaced the skirting boards had they been screwed on but they were held in place with glue and gardaí had no glue to stick them to the walls, he said.

Judge David Riordan said that the legislation was such that Mr Heaphy had to prove that gardaí had shown mala fides or had acted maliciously against him in carrying out the search and that the search was unreasonable in the circumstances but he did not believe he had proven that.

Gardaí had damaged the house but they did so on foot of information that money was hidden in the structure of the house and previous searches had found money hidden in a TV stand and in that context, he believed the search was carried out a reasonable manner and dismissed the claim.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times