NewsCrime Desk

“There’s no CCTV of me showing my kids how to steal” says shoplifting mum

Crime DeskBy Patrick O'Connell
Bridget Mongan
Bridget Mongan

A MUM-of-seven captured on CCTV “teaching” two of her children to shoplift, this week complained: “I can barely go to Aldi now with the embarrassment.”

And Bridget Mongan, of Ballybane, Galway, also insisted this week, “I’m a good mum” – even though a court heard she was recorded in Penneys “directing” her primary school aged children to shoplift.

Mongan appeared before Galway District Court in August on a raft of shoplifting offences on dates between October last year and February.

It was one of a number of shoplifting cases before the court as Gardaí in the city battle a massive 22 per cent spike in shoplifting incidents.

Last year, Galway’s Chief Superintendent Tom Curley attributed the rise in thefts to chronic drug addicts who are “shoplifting to feed their habit”. He estimated there are currently between 250 and 300 heroin users in the city.

Speaking to the Sunday World, Mongan insisted she was not a major criminal and had resorted to stealing after developing an addiction to prescription medication.

Last week, Sergeant Paul Duane told a court hearing that Gardaí were called to Penney’s at Headford Road Shopping Centre last February where Mongan was captured on CCTV removing a tag from a jacket and placing it into a bag.

The 44-year-old, he said, had two of her children with her and she could be seen on CCTV directing them to place other items into the bag. Clothing to the value of €67.50 was taken before Mongan and the children left the store.

“They have no CCTV of me showing the children how to steal,” Bridget, who is still awaiting sentence, insisted this week.

“That’s a bare-faced lie. They have CCTV of me putting a set of eye-lashes down my back pocket. I had my bag on my shoulder and the small little one here got it off me and put a top and a pair of shoes in there.

“The security guard asked for the bag and I gave him the bag.

“He took my two new jackets that I had in the bag myself and the guards said they’d get them back, but I’ve never got them back.”

Mongan continued that she had offered to pay for the goods in the court but never got to tell her side of the story.

“I told them I’d pay them in court… that the child done it and I’m very, very sorry,” she said.

“I’m embarrassed to walk the streets over this. I barely go to Aldi now to do my shopping.”

The incident in Penneys was one of a number of shoplifting offences to take place over a four-month period for which Mongan was called to attend court in August.

“I have shoplifted in the past, but I’ve been out of the spotlight for years,” Mongan continued.

“I was going through a bad patch last year and I became addicted to prescription pain killers.”

She continued that in the throes of her addiction she hadn’t been fully aware of many of her actions.

“I’m on a treatment programme right now and I’m doing very well on it,” she said.

Unlike Dublin, Cork and Limerick, violent organised crime gangs have not managed to take a firm grip in Galway.

Gardai say addicts who turn to shoplifting like Bridget Mongan are the victims of the serious crime gangs who are flooding the city with drugs.

Galway has consistently recorded ‘below average’ crime levels for most serious categories of offences – such as shootings and murders.

In 2012, organised crime in the city received a serious blow when two brothers – who were regarded as the city’s most dangerous criminals – were jailed for eight years.

Limerick criminnals have supplied much of the heroin and ‘downers’ sold on the streets of Galway.

They end up in the hands of desperate addicts like Mongan and their spiral of petty crime continues.

In court, gardaí said Mongan was also responsible for a series of shoplifting offences from the city’s Renmore Pharmacy.

Sgt Duane said Gardaí were called to Renmore Pharmacy on February 25 last after staff noticed items were being stolen from the shop every time Mongan came in to collect her prescription medications.

CCTV captured Mongan taking numerous items worth €284 from around the store on dates between January 23 and February 22 last, while waiting for her prescription.

“I’m on a daily script and each time I’d go in I’d take something,” Bridget confessed. “I’d take a yoke of hair-gel for €2.99 or a yolk of toothpaste or mouthwash for €3 or €4. I don’t know why I did that.”

Sgt Duane also told the court how Garda John O’Brien got a call to go to the Kilkenny shop at High Street, Galway at 6.10pm on the same date, where Mongan was caught shoplifting a Waterford crystal vase, valued at €595.

“A vase like that was hardly a necessity. She wasn’t stealing food or clothing for her children,” Judge Fahy observed at the sitting.

Mongan also pleaded guilty to stealing €200 worth of jewellery from Claire’s Accessories in the Eyre Square Shopping Centre.

At the end of the sitting Judge Fahy warned Mongan she is looking at a custodial sentence because she had two of her children with her.

The judge said she would refer the matter first to the Child and Family Agency and get a report from it before proceeding to sentence.

 “It’s outrageous that anybody would bring in young children to a shop like that. She is preparing them for the same type of lifestyle, so I want the matter referred to the Child and Family Agency,” Judge Fahy said.

She also directed the preparation of a pre-sanction probation report on Mongan and warned that if she was deemed to be an unsuitable candidate for community service she would serve a custodial sentence. She remanded Mongan on continuing bail to December.