*Kirsty Donnellan at the grave of her daughter Scarlett which was desecrated. Photograph: Eamon Ward
A WOMAN who stole from and desecrated graves in County Clare “hasn’t shown one ounce of empathy for the consequences of her behaviour”.
At Killaloe District Court sitting in Ennis on Tuesday, Judge Mary Larkin made her comment about Mairead O’Sullivan (42) who has entered 18 separate guilty pleas to charges of stealing goods with a combined value of €597.50 from graves at cemeteries at Drumcliffe and Templemaley outside Ennis and also from Tulla cemetery.
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. She 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”.
During the course of her victim impact statement, the mother of three told the court that eldest daughter, Scarlett (17) had died just 20 months prior to the thefts from her grave at Tulla graveyard.
Judge Larkin adjourned the case to Tuesday of this week for a Probation Report on Ms O’Sullivan and the judge commented that Ms O’Sullivan has shown “a complete lack of empathy” for the victims of her offending.
Judge Larkin said, “Ms O’Sullivan hasn’t shown one ounce of empathy for the consequences of her behaviour for what she did and the effect it had on the people”.
Judge Larkin said, “She would just go along and help herself to ornaments because she thought she would like them in her house”.
In response, solicitor for Ms O’Sullivan, Tara Godfrey said, “That hasn’t come across in the Probation Report. Ms O’Sullivan hasn’t said that to me, that she would like the ornaments in her house or garden”.
In reply, Judge Larkin said, “This is what she said in her Probation Report.”
Ms Godrey said that all items were recovered from a garage. She said that her client “had rather a difficult upbringing”.
She added, “She has one child with special needs and her marriage is breaking up and she was reflecting on the death of her father”.
Judge Larkin said that she would adjourn sentencing to December 6th to allow a further Probation Report be carried out on Ms O’Sullivan.
Judge Larkin said, “She has to make reparation – Ms O’Sullivan has to think about the effect and the consequences of her actions – and the damage she did to the parties who are entitled to allow their next of kin rest in peace”.
The judge said, “I want a full proper exploration here of what is going on in her background and I want to know what she is prepared to do rather than jail and do community service – to make some reparation”.
Judge Larkin said that the impact of Ms O’Sullivan’s offences is not the monetary value of the items “but the psychological consequences for those people whose graves were interfered with and the families of the bereaved”.
Judge Larkin said that Ms O’Sullivan “has to take responsibility for her actions”. At the conclusion of the case today in court, Ms O’Sullivan wiped away tears as Ms Godfrey spoke to her in the courtroom.
In her victim impact statement, 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 between 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.