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A bizarre story about a 'stolen' lawnmower made it into official government records 30 years ago

A tale about a Qualcast Punch Lawnmower worth £210 made it all the way into official Irish government records.

Image: Shutterstock/Branislav Cerven

THE STATE PAPERS are released every year from 30 years previously and often give us an insight into the behind the scenes goings on in government at the time.

Although these details were included in these official government documents, this is not one of those stories.

This story is about a lawnmower that was allegedly stolen from a hardware shop in central Dublin. It made it all the way into the Attorney General’s papers.

Just as a reminder, it is the responsibility of the Attorney General of Ireland to act as the legal adviser to the government.

Here’s what happened:

A man walked into a hardware shop, looking for a lawnmower. He located a fine, top of the range Qualcast Punch Lawnmower worth over £200. He alleges he paid for it, and left the shop with it.

The shop said that he just simply walked out with it without paying for it, when he saw that shop assistants were busy.

After making contact with the man and asking him to either prove he had paid by showing a receipt or simply just paying the money, the matter was brought to the gardaí.

The gardaí arrived to his house with a search warrant and removed the lawnmower.

Dispute

In a letter from the man’s solicitor on 13 May 1987, it expresses dismay and consternation at this removal, and reaffirms several times that he did pay for it.

It said: “Our client instructs us that he paid the full amount for the lawnmower and one of your assistants actually carried the lawnmower out to this vehicle for him after assisting him in dismantling the lawnmower in your reception area.

We have instructions to take immediate action to secure the recovery of the lawnmower and we also have instructions to put you on notice that unless we receive a letter from you within seven days indicating that you accept a mistake has been made and undertaking to compensate our client for the shock, fear and distress which this entire affair has caused him, legal proceedings will be taken against you in the High Court to determine the matter.

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In a letter back, the owner of the hardware shop was adamant that the shop was £200 short and that the man hadn’t paid.

The owner said: “He said he might not have the receipt or again, he might have it. As he was happy that he had paid he did not see why he should be pressed to show a receipt.

I told him that I had no record of £200 being paid to the company and he replied that that was my affair as he had paid one of my men and what happened to the money afterwards was my concern, not his.

In a letter signed by one of the sales assistants at the hardware store, he said that as he was “with another customer at the time, [he] was unable to become involved in the transaction other than giving the man the book and a spencer”.

Another staff member said that he saw that the man at the second cash register and assumed he had paid, so that’s why he helped him leave the shop with it.

Two more staff members said that the man had indeed paid a deposit of £10 some time previously, but stated categorically that he did not pay the remaining £200.

As the man had left his details with the shop when he paid his initial deposits, they made efforts to contact him to ask him if he paid the money.

Gardaí judgement

When the matter was brought to the gardaí, a statement signed by a sergeant said that the man “took advantage of confusion created by being served by a number of persons and got possession of the mower without paying the £200″.

This sergeant seemed in no doubt that the man had taken the lawnmower without paying for it, saying he was able to produce a receipt for the £10 deposit, but not for the other £200.

The garda said if he had a receipt to clear his name, why wouldn’t he produce it?

That garda asked for a copy of the file be sent to the Chief State Solicitors office for direction as to what charges, if any, should be brought against the man.

The Attorney General’s office did not recommend a prosecution but, as the lawnmower was now in the possession of the gardaí, it be subject to a police property application.

This meant that the matter could be fought out in court or, if the ownership of the lawnmower could not be ascertained, then it would be destroyed.

As this is where the Attorney General’s role in these matters ends, we don’t know what happened after that. Either way, we may safely assume that the grass in this man’s garden would have been very high indeed before he got the chance to cut it.

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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