Nun, 75, robbed by addict as she walked to Mass

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

Limerick Circuit Court: Judge Tom O'Donnell imposed a two year prison sentence
A CHRONIC heroin addict who snatched a handbag from an elderly nun as she was walking to Mass in the city centre has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment

A CHRONIC heroin addict who snatched a handbag from an elderly nun as she was walking to Mass in the city centre has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment

Joe Roche, aged 31, of no fixed abode, has been in custody since the incident which happened at O’Connell Street on the morning of January 3, last.

During a sentencing hearing, this Wednesday, Garda Denis Counihan said the robbery happened shortly before 10am as the 75-year-old was walking with another nun, aged 78, to the Augustinian Church.

The victim, he said, was carrying a black, shoulder-length handbag which was grabbed by the defendant as they walked near the junction of O’Connell Street and Glentworth Street.

“She felt a sudden tug from behind and staggered backwards,” he told John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, adding that her little finger was slightly injured.

The nun, who was described in court as “a formidable and robust lady” called for help but did not receive any assistance as there was nobody around at the time.

Gardai were alerted a short time later and Roche, who has previous convictions – including one for robbing an 83-year-old woman, was located in an alley off Davis Street around an hour and a half later.

When discovered he approached gardai with his hands up saying: “You have me, I’m caught, there’s no point in running.”

The nun’s mobile phone was recovered from the defendant and he made “full and frank” admissions following his arrest.

The nun’s handbag was found by a member of the public a number of days later but around €40 in cash was missing as Roche had bought heroin almost immediately after snatching the bag.

Judge Tom O’Donnell was told the father-of-four, whose marriage has broken up because of his addiction, is remorseful and is making efforts in prison to address his problems.

He accepted the offence was opportunistic but said Roche’s previous convictions were an aggravating factor.

The judge said he is concerned about the number of robbery offences coming before the courts adding they are something that must be “stamped out”.

Roche was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with the final year suspended.