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Grave error Gravedigger who damaged 16 headstones can't remember carrying out the crime, court hears

McSweeney, who is in his sixties and has no previous convictions, has undergone a battery of tests as doctors attempt to find an explanation for his unusual behaviour in a previously unblemished life.

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A gravedigger who admitted criminally damaging 16 headstones at graves possibly suffered from a “global amnesia event” as he has no memory of carrying out the crime.

When the 16 charges of criminal damage of graves were put to Pat McSweeney of Marian Terrace in Grange, Douglas, Cork, in March he replied to each of the charges: “I can’t argue with that.”

Yesterday at Cork District Court McSweeney's solicitor Frank Buttimer said his client was one of the nicest people he had ever met.

He stated that while McSweeney accepted he was behind the criminal damage, he could offer no explanation for his uncharacteristic behaviour.

The criminal damage occurred at St Mary and St John's Church, Station Road, Ballincollig, Co Cork, on March 13 of this year.

McSweeney, who is in his sixties and has no previous convictions, has undergone a battery of tests as doctors attempt to find an explanation for his unusual behaviour in a previously unblemished life.

He has paid €2,250 in compensation – the cost of the damage caused.

Judge Olann Kelleher read detailed medical reports which were submitted on the behalf of the defence in the case. He expressed concern that a consultation with a neurologist was carried out over the telephone. He asked that McSweeney be seen face to face by the consultant.

Judge Kelleher said it was important that McSweeney get to the bottom of what caused his behaviour on the day to prevent a repeat offence from occurring. He said he accepted that McSweeney was a genuine man.

The court heard the gravedigger spent 10 days at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork completing tests after he carried out the vandalism. He hasn’t worked since the incident.

Mr Buttimer stressed that his client was “incredulous” that he could have behaved in this manner and was shocked when he saw video footage of the incident.

He said McSweeney was suffering from a depressive illness due to the recent death of a family member and because of the stress of his workload.

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Mr Buttimer said while McSweeney does not have a brain injury, medics believe he may have suffered an episode of transient global amnesia.

McSweeney has apologised for his actions and takes responsibility for the unfortunate event.

Judge Kelleher said he accepted that McSweeney was on the level in his assertion that he doesn’t remember the incident.

The case was adjourned to September 17 to allow McSweeney to meet with a neurologist for a face to face clinical examination.

McSweeney was remanded on bail until his next court appearance.

It is understood the incident involved the smashing of some headstones whilst graffiti was daubed on others.

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