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Shock crime Thief who rummaged through 'dead' or 'dying' man's pockets is jailed

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A thief who rummaged through the pockets of an unresponsive man in a laneway who was later discovered to have died during the night has been jailed.

The court heard Andrew Stammers died of a drug overdose in the laneway at some point that night but it was not possible to establish if he was dead when Owen Comerford (34) and his accomplice stole from him.

The two men passed by the victim again later that night and raised the alarm after noticing he was still in the same position and they waited with him until medical assistance arrived.

Garda reviewing CCTV footage from the area later noticed that the two men had rummaged through Mr Stammers pockets when they initially encountered him earlier that night.

Comerford of Sean O'Casey Avenue, Dublin 1, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from Andrew Stammers at Adare Lane on October 19, 2017.

Today, Judge Melanie Greally said this was “an opportunistic theft on a man who vulnerable and was either dead or was dying”.

She said that the circumstances of Mr Stammers' death had caused massive additional distress to his grieving partner. The court heard the deceased had been off drugs for a number of years but for unknown reasons he went into the city that day and took heroin.

Judge Greally imposed a prison term of 18 months for the theft.

The court heard that Mr Stammers had been a recovering drug addict and had left a life of addiction behind him. Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, said that for “some inexplicable reason” he went into Dublin city that day and took heroin.

He died of an overdose at some point that night. It was difficult to establish his exact time of death as Mr Stammers remained in the same position in the lane throughout the CCTV footage.

Detective Garda Keith Fleming agreed with Rebecca Smith BL, defending, that Comerford had written a letter of apology in which he accepted full responsibility for his part in the offence. He agreed Comerford was not the instigator.

A garda witness agreed with Ms Smith that Comerford had struggled with drug addiction from an early age.

The court heard that Comerford was charged in December 2017 and while he out on bail for this offence he carried out three burglaries in the city as well as using a screwdriver to threaten staff in a newsagent on Dublin's East Wall road.

Judge Greally noted that the family who ran that shop had decided to close the business because they no longer felt safe after Comerford made threats to burn the shop down.

She imposed additional prison terms for these offences, bringing his final sentence to five and a half years. She suspended the final 12 months on condition that he engage with the Probation Services drug treatment programmes.

She noted that Comerford had gone into institutional care as a child and was damaged by a background of deprivation.

Last March John Murdiff (33), of Kippure Park, Finglas, Dublin was jailed for two years for his role in the theft.

Detective Garda Keith Fleming told the court he was part of the team who investigated the death of Mr Stammers. He said Mr Stammers had been found unresponsive in the laneway, lying on his back with no visible signs of injury.

He spoke to people at the scene, including Murdiff and Comerford. They told Gardai they had passed Mr Stammers at about 11.30pm and noticed him passed out slumped against bins.

They noticed him in the same position about 2.30am and went to get help.

A member of the public performed CPR on Mr Stammers. She realised Mr Stammers had passed away and waited with him and the two men until the Fire Brigade arrived.

As part of the investigation CCTV was obtained from the area and showed Murdiff and Comerford going through Mr Stammers pockets and removing items, before returning later that night to alert emergency services.

It was not possible to establish what time Mr Stammers had passed away at.

Murdiff was observed to go through Mr Stammers pockets first, taking cigarettes and cash, while Comerford kept a look out, before Comerford also went through the man's pockets.

The court heard Mr Stammers had been off drugs for a number of years, off methadone for one year and had not been in the city centre for ten months.

His partner prepared a victim impact statement that was handed into court.

Detective Garda John Paul Moriarty told the court during his investigations of three burglaries in the city centre he used CCTV to identify Comerford as one of the perpetrators.

Three men broke into an office at the Jervis Street Car Park and stole €199 in April 2018.

A business was broken into later that month on Marlborough Street and the till searched but nothing stolen.

Finally, two men broke into the stock room of Spar on East Wall Road in June 2018 but nothing was taken.

Comerford pleaded guilty to the three counts of burglary. He also admitted using a screwdriver to threaten staff at two locations in the city on August 10, 2018.

He pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious harm at the Gala shop on East Wall Road, Dublin 3 on August 10, 2018 and at a premises on Amiens Street, on the same date.

Comerford called the woman who owned the Gala shop “a fucking prostitute”, spat at her and threatened that he would burn the shop down. He pulled out a screwdriver and threatened her husband that he would “stick it in you”.

During this second offence Comerford threatened a security guard with the screwdriver and told him “I’ll stick this in your neck if you ever try to hold me again”.

Ms Smith said Comerford had previously been given bail to attend drug treatment and was grateful for that opportunity but had left without completing the course.

She said he hoped someday to address his demons and is currently clean of drugs in Cloverhill Prison.

She said he is aware of the difficult situation he faces and asked the court that he be given “light at the end of the tunnel,” taking into account that he is getting older and is more mature.

Judge Greally had previously adjourned the case to today for finalisation with other previously heard matters after evidence was heard in this case last week.

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