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opportunistic thief Man who stole €5,500 funeral savings from Cork pensioner is jailed

Court heard that the elderly victim has lost his trust and faith in human nature

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An 81-year old-man who was counting over €5,500 on to his kitchen table which he had put away to pay for his funeral had the monies stolen from him by an opportunistic thief who noticed the unlocked door of his home and wandered in to the property.

Jason Coffey (31) who was homeless at the time of the offence has been jailed for four years for the theft in Kanturk, on July 1, 2020.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the pensioner, who is without family, had consistently saved money for his funeral as he feared being a “burden” at his passing.

Mr Coffey entered his property at 11am on the day of the theft and told the old man that he owed him money for gutter work which he hadn’t completed. The pair had not previously met.

Mr Coffey picked up everything but €150 from the table. He left the premises and the man raised the alarm.

Garda Brendan Dunne told Judge Helen Boyle that the man involved “lives a very simple life.”

“He accumulated a large amount of money — €5,500 – to pay for his own funeral. He was counting it onto the kitchen table. Jason Coffey walked in and told him he was after cleaning his gutters. He picked up a large amount of cash and left €150,” said garda Dunne.

Mr Coffey, who has a young child he has never seen because he has been in custody, was tracked down by CCTV in the area where he was viewed getting into a van.

The registration plate was traced and he was arrested two months after the offence.

He readily admitted his involvement in the crime and said that he needed to take responsibility for what he did.

Coffey claimed that he only took €200 but gardai said that this was not the case.

Katie O’Connell defence barrister said: “To be fair to my client he did not apply for bail. He said he was very sorry for what he did to the old man and said when interviewed by gardai - ‘tell the old man I am sorry.’”

She stressed that the burglary was “opportunistic” and that he did not threaten the old man or use violence.

“He saw the open door. There was no threat, no ransacking. He left with money and used it for drugs. He is showing willingness to overcome a difficulty that he never showed before,” said Ms O’Connell.

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Mr Coffey had 73 previous convictions including two counts for robbery, 12 for theft and several for assault.

The court heard that he had a very difficult childhood as the eldest of ten in a dysfunctional home.

Judge Boyle noted the plea in the case which saved the old man the trauma of attending court.

A victim impact statement was handed in to the Judge which she referred to saying that the man had saved the money as he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone on his death.

He stated that he was without family to look after him.

Prior to the incident he always left his door unlocked and went in and out to talk to neighbours. Now he locks his door and stays in bed as he has lost his trust and faith in human nature.

Judge Boyle said that in a letter of apology to the victim Mr Coffey stressed that he was remorseful for his actions.

“He (Mr Coffey) says he is an adult and needs to accept responsibility.”

Judge Boyle acknowledged that Mr Coffey was making a significant effort to address his drug addiction and that he wants to be a good father.

However, she said to use a colloquialism it was a “lousy thing” to do.

She jailed him for four-and-a-half years suspending the last six months of the sentence.

The injured party, who is now aged 82,was not present in court. Mr Coffey was also unable to appear by video link at Cork Prison because of illness.

However, he was anxious for the case to proceed and was sentenced in his absence.

He is a native of Abbeyfeale in Co Limerick.

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