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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 24 January, 2020

Man who stole €10k from life savings of elderly friend sent back to jail

John McDonald had asked in 2012 to be given a chance to repay the victim but later fled the country.

Image: Old man hand via Shutterstock

A MAN WHO stole nearly €10,000 from his 74-year-old friend’s life savings while the elderly man was in hospital has been sent back to jail because a judge doesn’t believe he will ever compensate him.

John McDonald (58) was jailed for 18 months in May 2015 by Judge Martin Nolan. He said he would impose a further 18 months if he did not come up with €12,000 compensation for his victim within a month.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard McDonald befriended the now 80-year-old Matthew Murphy and helped him do his shopping. When Murphy went into hospital McDonald used his ATM card to make 29 withdrawals totalling €9,843. After his discharge from hospital the victim found his savings account contained only €15.


McDonald pleaded guilty in 2012 and asked for the case to be adjourned so he could repay the victim. He claimed he had just inherited €20,000 from his mother and that he needed time for the cheque to clear. He then fled to Northern Ireland until 2015.

He has 15 previous convictions, mostly for forgery and larceny offences dating back to before 1997.

McDonald of North Circular Road, Dublin pleaded guilty to nine sample counts of theft from Mr Murphy between December 2009 and February 2010 during various transactions around Dublin.

Yesterday, Dean Kelly BL, defending told Judge Nolan that McDonald had “no funds available for compensation”.

“This case has a long history,” Judge Nolan said. “I sentenced him on a certain basis, on certain submissions and promises made to the court. He has not fulfilled his promises and has made more promises and not fulfilled them.”

“A court cannot live in hope forever, nor can his victim,” Judge Nolan continued before he added that he had come to the conclusion “that it’s highly unlikely that he will ever pay over the money, in my view he will never comply with that aspect of the order.”

Judge Nolan then re-activated eight months of the 18 month jail term that had been suspended. He backdated the sentence to 9 December last when McDonald was remanded in custody last.

Forced to go into hospital 

Prosecuting counsel Cathleen Noctor BL presented evidence at the hearing in May 2015 that the victim met McDonald at a senior citizen’s event and they got to know each other. She said McDonald would help Murphy with his errands and they would go for a pint together.

In December 2009 Murphy became unwell and was unable to leave his flat. He needed to pay his rent and gave McDonald his ATM card and pin to take out money.

Murphy’s condition worsened and he was forced to go into hospital. McDonald didn’t return the card and would “fob off” the victim every time he asked for it. When Murphy was released from hospital, he found that his account had been nearly completely emptied and went to gardaí.

McDonald was arrested and claimed Murphy had agreed to lend him money because his family was in financial trouble. He claimed Murphy had signed a written agreement to this effect, but that he might not remember it because his mental health was poor at time.

Kelly said his client was married, but the relationship broke down due to his drinking. He said he also had significant addiction to prescription medications. Counsel said it was an opportunistic crime and “an offence of squalid dishonesty.”

He said that since his recent remand in custody for failure to pay over the money McDonald has been treated in the intensive care unit in Tallaght Hospital for an intestinal hernia.

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Conor Gallagher

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