*There are 14 victims in the particular case. 

A 42 year old woman who “indiscriminately” stole from and desecrated graves in County Clare has narrowly avoided being sent to jail.

At Killaloe District Court sitting in Ennis today, Judge Mary Larkin instead imposed 120 hours of community service on Mairead O’Sullivan for 18 separate theft offences concerning items with a combined value of €597.50 stolen from graves at three cemeteries.

Judge Larkin initially imposed a four month prison term on Ms O’Sullivan but instead ordered the Ennis woman to carry out the community service after solicitor for Ms O’Sullivan, Tara Godfrey said that her client would be very willing to carry out the community service.

Judge Larkin said that Ms O’Sullivan’s offences over a long period of time “had caused extraordinary and significant distress” to the injured parties.

Judge Larkin said that the items removed by Ms O’Sullivan from the graves “are of insignificant value but the significance of the items to the injured parties can’t be assessed or valued”.

There are 14 victims in the case as Ms O’Sullivan of Fergus View, Cappahard, Tulla Rd, Ennis stole from the same graves on a number of occasions.

At the same court in May, mother, Kirsty Donnellan described as “pure evil” the actions of Ms O’Sullivan who stole from and desecrated her daughter’s grave on three separate occasions.

Ms Donnellan told the court that she was “in a state of shock, anger and despair” when finding that her daughter, Scarlett’s grave had been desecrated in May 2020.

Ms Donnellan said that to have someone disturb your child’s grave and steal items from it is “the most hideous crime one could ever be a victim of”.

In sentencing today, Judge Larkin said that in a Probation Report handed into court, Ms O’Sullivan “has fully expressed her remorse for her senseless actions”.

Ms Godfrey said that the report showed that Ms O’Sullivan was at low risk of reoffending and contained her “heartfelt apologies”.

Judge Larkin said: “The offending here was indiscriminate. I don’t understand it.”

Judge Larkin said that Ms O’Sullivan had carried out her offences “without any regard or insight for the consequences”.

Judge Larkin said that Ms O’Sullivan had committed “an unusual crime”.

Judge Larkin said that bearing in mind the number of thefts “I do think it warrants a prison sentence” and imposed four months in prison.

The judge added that as Ms O’Sullivan has no previous convictions she would instead deal with the offence by way of community service.

Judge Larkin warned Ms O’Sullivan that if she didn’t complete the community service, it is open to her to impose all or part of the four month prison term. Judge Larkin said that the penalty imposed was “quite severe”.

During the course of her victim impact statement, mother of three, Kirsty Donnellan told the court that eldest daughter, Scarlett (17) had died just 20 months prior to the thefts from her grave at Tulla graveyard.

Kirsty Donnellan. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Ms Donnellan told the court in May: “These thefts have added to my anxiety, pain and huge loss, as a mother that grieves for her child, I should never have to visit my child’s grave finding it interfered with and desecrated. My daughter also deserved to rest in peace.”

On discovering the first theft, Ms Donnellan recalled “on May 16th 2020 on visiting my daughter’s grave, I was in a state of shock, anger and despair and was in tears to find two holes in her grave where Ms O’Sullivan had dug out the rose bushes from my daughter’s grave”.

“This was not the only time my daughter’s grave was desecrated. Later during the Summer in July 2020, items were taken from my daughter’s grave. Again, I was left distressed, crying and my faith in humanity questioned as who, and why could someone carry out such an act of disrespect and pure evil.”

In one grave theft at Tulla cemetery on a point sometime on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2020, Ms O’Sullivan stole six ornamental barrels containing flowers valued at €90 which was the property of Edel Hanrahan.

The charges contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences Act) 2001 show that Aileen Tuohy was the victim of Ms O’Sullivan’s grave theft spree on three different occasions in 2020.

Between May 14th and May 16th, Ms O’Sullivan stole rose bushes valued at €10 which was the property of Ms Tuohy at Tulla cemetery.

On July 12th/13th, Ms O’Sullivan stole a flowerpot valued at €2.50 from Ms Tuohy at Tulla cemetery and two months later on September 3rd/4th, Ms O’Sullivan struck again and stole from Ms Tuohy two white solar lanterns valued at €100 from Tulla cemetery.

Other items stolen from graves by Ms O’Sullivan included three dahlia plants, a wicker window box, yellow flowers and flower pots.

The thefts commenced in May 2020 and continued until April 2021 before Gardai identified Ms O’Sullivan as the culprit. The charges show that the vast bulk of thefts occurred at Tulla graveyard which was struck 15 times by Ms O’Sullivan over the 11 months with the remaining thefts taking place a Drumcliffe and Templemaley cemeteries outside Ennis.

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