Farmer's heartbreak as €130k life savings are stolen by daughter's Limerick fiancé

David Hurley


David Hurley

Judge Tom O'Donnell: Clear case was ‘not just about money’

Judge Tom O'Donnell: Clear case was ‘not just about money’

A WOMAN whose life savings were stolen by her daughter’s fiancé has described how her family’s world was completely shattered by the theft which has left them heartbroken.

Mary O’Connell made her comments this Wednesday afternoon during the sentencing hearing of Alan Fitzgerald who has admitted stealing €130,000 from Mrs O’Connell and her husband Donal.

The 33-year-old, who has an address at Court, Kildimo has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of theft dating back to early 2014.

Detective Garda Tommy Griffin said a complaint was made to gardai in July 2014 shortly after Mr O’Connell discovered the cash had been removed from a safe which was concealed in a shed at his farm at Kilmore, County Clare.

He told John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, the money, which was supposed to be the couple’s retirement fund, had been withdrawn from a number of financial institutions around the time of the economic crash as Mr O’Connell was concerned.

Det Garda Griffin said Mr Fitzgerald made admissions to Mr O’Connell when confronted about the missing cash and that secret recordings of the conversations were later given to gardai.

The defendant and his fiancé left their home in Clare and moved to County Limerick the day after the theft was discovered.

Judge Tom O’Donnell was told they remain together and that Jennifer O’Connell is “standing by” Mr Fitzgerald.

In a Victim Impact Statement, Mary O’Connell said what happened had a “life changing effect” and that neither she or her husband have been able to retire as a result.

She said her family is heartbroken at the loss of a daughter and sister and that all that remains are memories of the good times.

“Mr Fitzgerald has  been part of our lives and family since 2009. We felt very betrayed by him as he was always treated like a family member,” she said.

Mark Nicholas SC said his client accepts his actions have “driven a wedge” through the O’Connell family but that he hopes the rawness may heal with time.

He added that the continuing relationship between his client and Jennifer O’Connell was a complicating factor.

While no monies have been repaid to date, Mr Nicholas said his client will be in a position to pay over €80,000 in the immediate future.

During this Wednesday’s hearing, a number of written testimonials were handed into court in support of Mr Fitzgerald who has no previous convictions.

Adjourning the matter to February Judge O’Donnell said it is abundantly clear the case is “not just about the money”. 

He said it is an “extremely sad case” and that it would be a shame to see the “fractious relationship” continuing indefinitely.