A gang distracted a shop assistant before stealing almost €30,000 in both cash and jewelery from a Co Donegal antiques shop.

Three of the gang of six appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court today where they were charged with the burglary of Mourne Antiques in Letterkenny on January 18th last.

The court was told how the six people came into the shop around 4pm when just one shop assistant Keith Stevenson was working.

A number of the people distracted Mr Stevenson while one of the gang managed to gain entry to the staff room at the rear of the premises.

The woman then gained entry to a safe and took €5,000 in cash as well as 18 pieces of jewelery which were valued at more than €22,000.

The three before the court were Daniel Constatin Mandescu, Larisa Craioveanca, both with addresses at Usher’s Quay, Dublin and also Vasiliaica Bita of Belmount Court in Dublin.

CCTV footage within the shop shows one of the women putting the items into a makeshift bag which was around her waist under her clothing.

The gang left the shop quickly and the shop was closed up as normal a short time later.

However, that evening shop assistant Keith Stevenson began to think about the events of the day and returned to the store that evening.

Mourne Antiques, Main Street Letterkenny

He then noticed the items and the cash were missing and contacted the shop owner Frances Spears who had been in Dublin at a trade show for the weekend.

Gardai issued a national media alert after the robbery.

A few days after the robbery on January 30th, Detective Garda Frank McDaid was off-duty when he spotted a number of the suspects in the robbery and arrested them along with colleagues in Buncrana along with colleagues.

When arrested four of the bags used to hide items were also found in the car.

The court was told that only a small number of the stolen haul have been recovered after they were sold to jewelery dealers in Dublin.

The owner of the shop, Ms Frances Spears, told how the robbery has made her more suspicious and she has now been forced to put two staff on duty in her shop and also increase security.

Her insurance costs had also increased by 25%.

“How people could just walk into my shop and take what they wanted just baffled me,” she said.

Ms Spears had spent 30 years building up her business and had only moved into her new premises six months previously.

She said she felt so sorry for her shop assistant Mr Stevenson who had to take a week off work because he was so upset.

She also had to contact all her clients who owned much of the jewelery stolen as it had been in for repair or valuation.

She added “My customers were very upset at their loss. Some were sympathetic but I knew they wouldn’t put their trust in me lightly as they did before. Another worry. How do I build their trust?

“How could these robbers just take what they liked, form anyone they liked, whenever they liked.”

The court heard that all three accused had previous convictions for theft in a number of countries including Germany, Belgium and also Northern Ireland.

Judge John Aylmer adjourned the case until Friday for sentence.


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