Travel agent accused of stealing €18k from children’s charity he founded

CourtsBy Sunday World
John Murphy
John Murphy

A travel agent has gone on trial accused of stealing over €18,000 from a charity he founded which sent terminally ill children to see Santa.

John, also known as Cornelius, Murphy (66) set up the Children to Lapland Appeal which has flown thousands of children to Lapland. He acted as director from its foundation in 1987 until it was liquidated in 2012.

Mr Murphy of Church Road, Killiney, Dublin has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of theft in the Dublin area.

The court heard Mr Murphy's full time job was running United Travel, a travel agent based in Stillorgan, Dublin which flew a route to Lapland. In 1987 he devoted one of these flights to sending terminally ill children who were taken from hospitals around the country.

Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, told the trial that bank records show Mr Murphy lodged four cheques from the charity into his personal account between June and July 2010 totalling €18,643.

Counsel for Mr Murphy, Patrick Reynolds BL, said that Mr Murphy's personal account was also used for business purposes, including paying expenses and wages for Manorcastle Ltd which was also known as United Travel.

Mr McCormack presented evidence that four cheques written from the charity's account matched four lodgements into the accused's personal account. The cheques had been signed by one of the directors of the Children to Lapland Appeal, Joseph Reid.

Mr Reid gave evidence that he had known the accused for 35 years and was one of three directors including Mr Murphy. He said sometimes he would get a call to come into the office to sign cheques.

He said he would sign blank cheques five at a time to save him coming back multiple times. He agreed it was his signature on the four cheques in the charges.

Mr Reid said the money from the cheques belonged to the charity. He said he was "horrified" when gardai showed him they had been paid into Mr Murphy's account and that he considered such activity fraud.

Mr Reynolds, defending Mr Murphy, asked the witness if the signing of multiple blank cheques at a time "was a Charlie Haughey, Bertie Ahern scenario."

Mr Reid said he was "certainly no Bertie Ahern" and said he signed them in this way "for convenience sake."

Counsel asked Mr Reid if the charity owed between €68,000 and €69,000 to Mr Murphy and Manorcastle. The witness replied that money was owed but not at the time the cheques were issued.

The trial continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury.

Conor Gallagher