A 28-year-old man who broke into the home of an 83-year-old woman at night, pretended to be a garda and stole more than €2,500 in cash has been jailed for four years.
Christopher Jones, a native of Mayfield, Cork, but of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to a series of house break-ins in the Tower Street, High Street and Windmill Road areas on the south side of the city during the night of April 16th/17th last year.
Det Sgt Joe Young told the court how Jones and a co-accused broke into five houses that evening including one at Tyrone Place on Tower Street. They went into the bedroom of the owner, an 83-year-old woman who was living alone, woke her and pretended to be gardaí.
“They broke into this house at 4.03am and they woke the occupant, an 83-year-old woman living alone who was cocooning because of Covid 19 and the national lockdown,” said Det Sgt Young.
“They told her they were gardaí checking on burglaries and they asked her where she kept her money so she directed them to a shelf and they stole €2,500 and another €200 she had put away in a confirmation card for her grandson as well as £80.”
Det Sgt Young said that Jones and his accomplice were in the house for just four minutes but they were identified on CCTV and arrested 12 hours later. Gardaí later recovered €1,600 of the woman’s money after Jones’s co-accused gave it to a relative for safe keeping.
Jones was interviewed five times by gardaí about the spate of break-ins. Late in the final interview, he admitted his role. He said he wanted to apologise to the elderly woman for what they had put her through.
Jones, who pleaded guilty to impersonating a garda when he broke into the house at Tyrone Place, also pleaded guilty to an aggravated burglary just more than a week earlier on April 9th when he and his co-accused broke into a flat on Great William O’Brien Street on Cork’s north side.
Det Sgt Young, who described the break-ins as “a spree of planned and premeditated burglaries”, said that Jones was “a career criminal” and “habitual reoffender” with 84 previous convictions including convictions for robbery, burglary, theft and criminal damage.
Cross-examined by counsel for the defence, Niamh Ó Donnabháin, Det Sgt Young stood over his assertion it was a premeditated crime spree as Jones brought a tool to force open doors. But he agreed that Jones came from a troubled family background and suffered from drug-addiction problems.
Ms Ó Donnabháin disputed any assertion that the offences were premeditated. She said her client was leading a chaotic and turbulent life at the time as he was homeless and living in hostels. She suggested that the offences were in fact opportunistic.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said there were several aggravating factors, including that the offences were committed by night and that Jones and his co-accused targeted houses for multiple break-ins and that they confronted several occupants.
He accepted, however, that no violence was shown to any of the occupants and that the accused had pleaded guilty at an early stage in respect of all offences, which was a mitigating factor in his favour.
The judge said that notwithstanding the chaos in Jones’s life at the time, he and his accomplice had the presence of mind to offload €1,600 of the cash stolen from the elderly woman to a third party in an effort to put it beyond the reach of gardaí.
The judge noted the probation service had assessed Jones as being at a high risk of reoffending. He proposed sentencing Jones to five years in jail with the final year suspended, and with the four-year term beginning at the end of a 12-month term which Jones is serving for a separate offence.