desperation | 

Man who stole from collection boxes to fund his drug habit says heroin ‘cost me everything’

‘I just couldn’t do it anymore …. I couldn’t carry on living the way I was living’

Charles Nolan from Cork who pleaded guilty to stealing money from church collection boxes

Charles tells our man Patrick what happened

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

A man convicted of stealing from collection boxes to fund a drug habit this week told the Sunday World: “Heroin is a horrible drug … it has cost me everything.”

A former carer, Charles Nolan appeared before Cork District Court earlier this month where evidence was heard of how his modus operandi was to fish money out of collection boxes in Cork.

The 66-year-old’s most recent appearance was for taking money from collection boxes at St. Augustine’s and from St Peter and Paul’s Church in the city.

Nolan’s sentencing was adjourned for two months by Judge Olann Kelleher who warned him: “If there are any charges – even charges pending – before the court of a similar nature you will get ten months in jail.”

“I’m a recovering heroin addict,” Nolan told this newspaper. That’s why I did it.

Charles tells our man Patrick what happened

“I was a heroin addict and that was the motivation but I was never violent. I was a heroin addict for six years.”

Asked how many collection boxes he targeted over this period, Nolan responded: “I have no idea how many times I did it.

“But that’s the reason I did it and that’s the only reason I did it … because of my heroin habit.

“I would never have done it otherwise. I’m very embarrassed about it now.”

During his case, Sergeant Gearóid Davis told how Nolan was caught on September 12, 2022 by Garda Lorraine O’Donovan who was on patrol by St. Augustine’s Church when she observed him interfering with a Share box.

“She approached him,” he said.

“She found he had opened the box with a key. He said he found it a few weeks ago and was coming in once a fortnight to access the Share box with the key.

“He said at the time, ‘I don’t know how much I get. I take €15 from each box – enough for a bag of heroin and gambling. I’m trying to get into rehab. I hate what I’m doing’.

"At the time he was in possession of €60 and $24,” Sgt. Davis said.

Just over a month later he was caught doing something similar at the other church.

At around 4pm on the afternoon of October 21 he was seen on CCTV extracting euro notes with a fishing tool from an offertory donation box.

When confronted by the sacristan he fled with a sum of cash, Sgt. Davis said.

Asked this week whether he is still abusing heroin, Nolan responded: “I’m finished with it.

“I just couldn’t do it anymore …. I couldn’t carry on living the way I was living.

“I am sorry for what I did, of course I am!

“I lost everything because of heroin. It cost me my house, my family home, my friends … it took everything.

“I was my mum’s carer for 10 years. Then she went to America to my sisters over there and she got sick and she died. Things changed for me after that.

“But I am done with it now … I couldn’t ever go back to living that life … I’m after losing two and a half stone. It’s a horrible, horrible drug.”

Asked if he had any message for other addicts, Nolan responded: “Just get into rehab and try and help yourself.

“There is so much of it around now … the town is full of it.

“It’s amazing how so much of it is flooding into such a small city.”

At his court appearance, defence solicitor Frank Buttimer said his client had brought €500 to be given to the two churches - €250 each.

“He also brought a letter to the court which was ready privately by Judge Kelleher.”

Addressing the court, Nolan told the judge, “You have always been very fair to me.”

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