Home help walks free despite ‘despicable’ theft from 84-year-old

Suspended sentence for Mary Doyle who denied theft until shown video footage

The placing of secret cameras in the home of the aunt of former TD, Michael McNamara helped Gardai catch a thieving home help who was stealing from the “fragile and emotionally distressed” 84 year old woman.

To catch the suspected thief, two secret cameras were installed at the home of Peggy O’Grady after she raised concerns over missing monies at her rural home near Scarriff.

Mrs O’Grady along with her late husband Jim had raised Mr McNamara from a very young age at their home at Tobernogath in east Clare.

The secret cameras were installed to watch over Mrs O'Grady's safe and her handbag and caught Clarecare home help Mary Doyle in the act of stealing €220 over five separate occasions in April of last year.


At Ennis District Court, Det Garda Bernard Casey said Ms Doyle (55) of Ross, Feakle in east Clare, denied the thieving in a Garda interview until she was presented with the video evidence from the two secret cameras.

Det Casey said a number of different home helps were aiding Mrs O’Grady and that over a 24 day period in April 2017, the concealed cameras filmed Ms Doyle taking money from Mrs O’Grady’s handbag on four occasions and going to the safe and taking a quantity of cash.

Imposing a suspended six month jail term on Ms Doyle for stealing the €220 from the widow on five separate dates, Judge Patrick Durcan said that one of the aggravating factors was Ms Doyle brazening it out and denying the thefts before she was presented with the video footage.

Judge Durcan said Mrs O’Grady had lost her husband only months prior in August 2017 and she was at the time of the thefts “fragile, aged and emotionally distressed”.

Judge Durcan said Ms Doyle “was entrusted with care and welfare of short periods of time of an elderly lady living in a rural area and she flagrantly breached that trust”.

He said Ms Doyle “interfered with the private personal savings of Mrs Peggy O’Grady and removed monies from her handbag and monies from a safe. That is the greatest aggravating factor.”

Judge Durcan said that what had taken place “was at the upper end of this type of criminality”.

Solicitor for Ms Doyle, Turlough Herbert, said that his client admitted that the offences were “despicable”.

He said: “By any standards, it is a serious betrayal of trust to a vulnerable person and she apologises unreservedly to Ms O’Grady for that.”

Insp Tom Kennedy said that Mrs O’Grady has been fully compensated.

Mr Herbert said that Ms Doyle’s crime has brought much embarrassment to her “and she has been very much ostracised”.

Ms Doyle - who has no previous convictions - has had serious health difficulties. “This has been very difficult for her and her family and she has destroyed any prospect of further employment.”

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times