Gran (73) acted as a getaway driver in robbery of elderly Westmeath farmer

The court heard Therese King admitted her guilt but was working largely “under duress” as she felt the need to help the three men out.

Therese King talks to Sunday World reporter Patrick O'Connell

Therese King talks to Sunday World reporter Patrick O'Connell

Jessica ThompsonSunday World

An elderly woman (73) and a man involved in an "extremely serious offence" where a pensioner (80) was assaulted and tied to a chair while the culprits made off with his shotgun and his jeep, will be sentence later this month.

Therese King, of Seffin, Birr, Co Offaly, and Edward Morrissey, of Apartment 3, Old Shop Building, Emmett Street, Birr, Co Offaly, both appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson at Mullingar Circuit Court yesterday afternoon.

Both had previously pleaded guilty to their involvement in the robbery of the elderly farmer of €45 and a Seguro over-and-under shotgun at his home in Mullingar.

In 2020, well-known former B&B owner Therese King had denied any guilt in regard to the allegations made against her.

She told the Sunday World, following her arrest last year: "I'm not guilty of anything."

And she added that in her long life this had been the first time for her to have come to the attention of the gardaí.

"Not even a parking ticket," she said.

Yesterday, Detective Garda Adrian O'Reilly, of Mullingar Garda Station, told the court today that, on September 19, 2020, at 2.06pm, Gardaí were alerted to an incident where a male was tied up and robbed.

"He had a cut to his ear and bruises to his arms where he was tied to the chair. He managed to free himself and call 999," said Detective Garda O'Reilly.

He told the court that the injured party, Martin Dibbs, a highly respected farmer and horse breeder, arrived home from Mullingar and was putting items from the shop into his fridge when he was confronted by three masked men who "bound him to the armchair and partially gagged him".

The men demanded money and, after a sweep of the house, discovered Mr Dibbs' shotgun upstairs.

"They threatened him with the shotgun and with an axe that was brought to the scene and a stick covered in duct tape, which was also brought to the scene," said Det Gda O'Reilly.

The assailants made off in Mr Dibbs' jeep, which had €3,000 in the glove box. While en-route to the property,

Gardaí observed the jeep, which was later found in a carpark where a witness gave a description of three males and a lady making off in a white Volkswagen Jetta.

CCTV footage of the Jetta in Mullingar and Birr gave a registration plate that revealed Ms King, a B&B owner in Birr to be the owner of the vehicle.

During several interviews with Gardaí, Ms King was truthful and assisted in the investigation, the court heard.

Det Gda O'Reilly said Gardaí believed the men had a presence at the property the previous day and the jeep was not at the house.

"So it was agreed they'd meet at Ms King's house at 8am and go back to the house," he said.

"The males were dropped off and Ms King waited at the carpark for them. They later arrived in the stolen jeep and left in her car."

Therese King talks to Sunday World reporter Patrick O'Connell

When asked if the shotgun was recovered, Det. Gda O'Reilly explained that the group drove to Limerick the following day, where they exchanged the gun for drugs.

In a victim impact statement, read out by Det Gda O’Reilly, Mr Dibbs said that two walnut antique armchairs, worth €2,000 were damaged during the incident. Physically, he suffered bruising to his arms and marks to his face. He was taken to hospital that day and released that evening.

Psychologically, he said the loss of his firearm has left him feeling very vulnerable as he lives alone in his home.

“Any noise outside alerts me and I’m a lot more security conscious. If I see someone coming, I won’t let them in,” he said.

“The fact the invaders came in from the field leads me to believe they’d been at my house previously,” he added.

Ms King, the court heard, admitted her guilt but was working largely “under duress” as she felt the need to help the three men out.

Meanwhile, Mr Morrissey’s own admissions to Gardaí were what led to his prosecution, whereas two other culprits were not before the courts because no admissions were made.

Mr Morrissey, taking to the stand, expressed his remorse for his part in the incident, telling the court, “I was that high on drugs. I was an addict. Back then I was an out and out scumbag. I took money from my own mother’s purse, I was that bad.”

He told the court he’d spent some time in Cuain Mhuire, where he tackled his addiction and turned his life around, but said he will never forget what he did and that he saw his father when he looked at the elderly victim.

“I am so sorry. Every night when I close my eyes, I see that man’s face. I puked outside twice, I fell on the ground. I loosened the tie and I asked him if he was okay. I took his hanky and I wiped his nose and I said ‘this one is loose’ and I pulled it so he’d be able to free himself,” said Mr Morrissey.

“I got in the jeep and I said ‘come on, he’s an old man, leave him alone’. All through my life, things have happened to me, but that will never leave me. I realised then that I am an addict. Since I came out of Cuain Mhuire, I have turned my whole life around.

“People don’t realise how sick you can be when you don’t have heroin. It’s ten times worse than the flu.”

Judge Johnson, upon hearing the evidence, said “this is an extremely serious offence”.

“It is a hugely serious offence and it is quite an extraordinary case. I do accept the two persons before the court are the least culpable of the four. The other two weren’t prosecuted because they made no admissions in the interview,” he said.

“It is of great concern to me that the two main culprits aren’t before the courts.”

He said he would like to “take some time” to consider his judgement and adjourned the sentencing to March 30.

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