A young mother of three who took a pensioner’s bank card before stealing her life savings of almost €27,000 has been jailed for 18 months.
Heartless Alicia Shaw, now 24, befriended elderly Brid Murphy and went for shopping for her.
However, when she got hold of her bank card and pin number she went on a theft splurge that lasted weeks.
Shaw regularly withdrew up to €700 a day without out the knowledge of Ms Murphy.
Letterkenny Circuit Court heard how Ms Murphy, who is now 82 years old, had worked hard all her life with both the ESB and in a legal firm and sent all her children to third-level education after her husband Frankie died aged just 51.
However, she has been now left a recluse in her own home in Buncrana after she was preyed upon and robbed by Shaw from Kingscourt in Cavan between February and March in 2015.
She became so frustrated by the thefts that she suspected everyone including her children and grandchildren.
The massive fraud was first noticed when Ms Murphy received her six-monthly bank statement she became aware that a huge sum of money was missing from her account and notified Gardai.
Gardai launched an investigation and downloaded CCTV footage from the bank from February and March in 2015.
A woman in her 20s was observed in the footage withdrawing money on a regular basis at times that matched the withdrawals of Ms Murphy money.
Garda Caroline Whelan lived on the same housing estate as the accused and noticed that she was friendly with the victim and she was arrested on suspicion of the thefts.
Shaw initially denied the thefts and said she was using her own card.
She then claimed that her friend gave her the card and asked her to withdraw the sums of cash but did not know the card was stolen.
However, she later admitted her part in the deception.
Ms Murphy’s daughter Ruth Jackson spoke on her mother’s behalf and told of the devastation the theft had brought to her mother and their entire family.
She told how her mother is still of sound mind but that she could not face coming to court because her pride kept her away.
Her daughter fought back tears as she told how her mother fought through disabilities to ensure all her children were given a third level education.
However, since her account and her life savings were taken, Ms Murphy no longer trusts anyone, according to her daughter.
She referred to one occasion when just €4.04 was left in her mother’s account because the thief had taken the €250 of her old age pension money which had just been lodged.
Terrified Ms Murphy now locks all the doors in her home, has become a virtual recluse despite previously always being out in the town and even takes her handbag to the toilet with her.
Ms Jackson added “She lives with suspicion of everyone including her whole family which is a tragedy.”
She also added how Bank of Ireland had refused to reimburse her mother for the money which was stolen from her account.
Barrister for the accused, Ms Catherine Taffe outlined Shaw’s upbringing and how her mother and father split up when she was young and her mother had brought her children to live in Donegal from Glasgow.
She went back to Glasgow to try to reunite with her father but that did not end well.
She became dependant on alcohol and also suffers from ADHD, a personality disorder and dyslexia.
“Nothing we can say will minimise the impact this has had on the elderly victim and her family,” said Ms Taffe.
She said her client, who wants to train to become a nurse, was hugely upset and the tears she cried in the courtroom were not “crocodile tears.”
Passing sentence Judge John Aylmer said Shaw had pleaded guilty to nine out of 57 charges of theft.
He said the thefts were devastating for Ms Murphy and her family.
He said the particularly aggravating factor was that the money was taken from such a vulnerable person in such a systematic way.
He said such offences carry a maximum prison sentence of ten years and he placed these particular thefts in the mid-range of such crimes and said they merited 5 years on each charge.
He took into account Ms Shaw’s age, the fact that she had no previous convictions, suffered from ADHD, chronic low self-esteem and dyslexia and was remorse.
He said he was sentencing Shaw to three and a half years in prison on each charge.
He said he had the option to suspended part or all of this sentence and did suspend the final two years of the sentence meaning Shaw will serve 18 months in prison.
He said that although he did consider the fact that she had young children but said he had to find a balance in order to protect the elderly in our society.