Woman pleads guilty to stealing money from elderly relative

Four-month suspended sentence given to woman who stole more than €6,000 from retired schoolteacher (91)

Elderly people must be protected from those who would prey on their vulnerability and steal from them, warned a judge as he convicted a woman of stealing over €6,000 from a 91-year-old retired schoolteacher in Co Cork.

Judge Colm Roberts said that Mary Ann O'Sullivan (57) was guilty of a huge breach of trust when she stole the money from her elderly relative, Catherine Beardsmore, after assisting her with her financial affairs when Ms Beardsmore retired from the UK to Kinsale in west Cork.

“We have to protect the elderly,” the judge said as he imposed a four-month suspended sentence on O’Sullivan. “I have a duty to mark the seriousness of this crime so that people don’t engage in this type of offence.”

O'Sullivan, originally from Horsehill, Kinsale, Co Cork but now resident at Avenido de Los Angelos, San Pedro de Alacantara, Malaga in Spain, pleaded guilty to 27 counts of stealing money belonging to Ms Beardsmore at AIB Bank Kinsale between December 24th, 2014 and April 20th, 2017.


At Bantry District Court on Thursday, Sgt Patricia O'Sullivan said the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed the matter be dealt with on a summary basis only on a guilty plea and defence solicitor, Denis Healy confirmed O'Sullivan wanted to plead guilty and dispose of the matter immediately.

Det Garda Mick Brosnan of Kinsale Garda Station told the court how O'Sullivan had assisted Ms Beardsmore with her financial affairs, when she moved to Kinsale.

Ms Beardsmore was having her UK teacher's pension paid into a Barclays Bank Account in the UK but O'Sullivan helped her set up a joint emergency account with both their names on it at AIB Bank in Kinsale with Ms Beardsmore's knowledge and consent, said Det Garda Brosnan.

However, without Ms Beardsmore’s knowledge or permission, O’Sullivan also set up a second joint account with AIB Bank in Kinsale. Over the course of three years, O’Sullivan withdrew €6,467 in 27 separate transactions from this secret account, he said.

O'Sullivan presented for voluntary interview at Bandon Garda Station on July 1st, 2018 and accepted the transactions should not have happened.

Det Garda Brosnan confirmed O’Sullivan had no previous convictions and had never come to Garda attention before.

Mr Healy said that O’Sullivan had initially acted like “a good friend” to Ms Beardsmore in setting up a bank account for her but she had then taken the money to set up a business venture and planned to pay her back but the venture had failed.

He said that the offences were completely out of character for his client who was a single woman who had reached the age of 57 without ever once being in court before and she was deeply remorseful for what she had done and had written a letter of apology for Ms Beardsmore.

She had also brought €6,500 in cash to court to repay Ms Beardsmore, said Mr Healy.

Judge Roberts said he accepted that O’Sullivan had been “an upstanding, decent and honourable person” prior to this but she had stolen money from an elderly vulnerable person whom she befriended and purported to help and that could not be ignored.

“She is guilty of a serious breach of trust, not on one occasion but over a three-year period, when she had sufficient opportunities to stop but that did not happen,” said Judge Roberts, adding that the matter would never have come to light but for good investigation work by Det Garda Brosnan.

He said that he believed the matter was too serious to apply the Probation Act and he had to mark the gravity of the offence by recording a conviction against her but said he would suspend a four-month sentence on the basis of her guilty plea, no previous convictions and repayment of monies.

* This article was edited on March 26th, 2021

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times