NewsCrime Desk

Heroin addict robbed 76-year-old nun in broad daylight

Heroin addict robbed 76-year-old nun in broad daylight

A heroin addict who robbed a 76-year-old nun as she was walked to morning Mass along with another elderly sister has been jailed for two years.

Joseph Roche (30), of no fixed abode, had pleaded guilty to the robbery. He subjected the two nuns to a "frightening and traumatic" ordeal when he grabbed Sr Paula Clarke's handbag on O'Connell Street in Limerick city on January 3, Limerick Circuit Court heard.

Before jailing the separated father of four, Judge Tom O'Donnell said it was an opportunistic and insidious crime.

"This was effectively daylight robbery, an insidious and opportunistic crime where the victim was an easy target, a lady in her senior years," said Judge O'Donnell.

The robbery took place as Sr Paula and Sr Bernadette O'Driscoll (79) were walking to 10am Mass in the Augustinian Church.

Sr Paula, who was carrying a black shoulder-length handbag, suddenly felt a tug from behind that pulled her backwards, nearly causing her to lose her balance, the court heard.

She cried for help but there was nobody around to render assistance and Roche ran off with her handbag, the court heard.

The nuns continued to the church, where they called the gardaí and gave a good description of the handbag thief.

Roche was discovered by gardaí an hour-and-a-half later a short distance away in an alleyway off Davis Street, holding Sr Paula's mobile phone.

When discovered he said: "You have me, I'm caught, there's no point in running."

He told gardaí he had discarded the handbag which contained €40 in cash along with a number of personal effects, including a bus pass, keys and a holy water bottle.

The handbag was handed into Colbert train station some days later with all the belongings still inside, except for the cash, which Roche admitted he had used to buy drugs.

In his evidence, Garda Denis Counihan described the victim as a "formidable and robust lady" who suffered an injury to her finger but didn't require hospital attention.

The court heard Roche was a recovering heroin addict whose recent relapse had caused the break-up of his marriage and his alienation from his four children.

Judge O'Donnell sentenced Roche to three years in prison but suspended the final 12 months of the sentence.

Kathryn Hayes