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Man (67) given two-year suspended sentence after removing roof rafters and kitchen from rented house

Denis O’Connor was described as ‘cruel’ in court today.

Image: Shutterstock/Radovan1

A TENANT WHO put a family through a “living hell” by cutting the rafters on the house he was renting has received a two-year suspended sentence after paying them compensation.

At a sentencing hearing at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, judge Sean O’Donnabhain said that Denis O’Connor of Hillside, Cappagh in Kinsale, Cork had caused “devastation” to Audrey O’Mahony and her family.

The 67-year-old pensioner began renting the cottage at Ballinspittle in Cork six years ago.

O’Mahony told the court that she believed O’Connor intended to obtain permanent possession of her property through unethical means.

“He is not the least bit sorry for what he has put us through. His actions against us are inexcusable, cruel and downright wrong,” she said.

O’Connor pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to the house by removing its roof rafters and by damaging floors and various fittings at the property on dates between 5 December, 2015 and 23 July, 2018.

He also pleaded guilty to the theft of a fitted kitchen worth €1,000, which he removed from the single storey cottage to replace with his own kitchen.

He later removed this kitchen when he left the property, leaving the house without a functioning area to prepare food.

Garda Cormac Dineen said that the O’Mahony family had previously moved from the cottage in Ballinspittle to their new home in Clonakilty and put it on the rental market.

O’Connor, who is a handyman by profession, began renting the property in 2015. He agreed to carry out some minor repair works with the consent of the owners.

However, the court heard that the family did not give him permission to carry out some of the works he completed.

This included the removal of 27 roof rafters and taking up a hall floor, leaving the family with a bill for damage of €16,000.

The garda said that O’Connor finally moved out of the property more than a year after he had stopped paying rent to the O’Mahony family.

Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan said that his client was a discharged bankrupt who was apologetic for his actions. As a token of his remorse, O’Connor handed over €13,000 in compensation to the family in court today.

‘Never-ending nightmare’

O’Mahony claimed that O’Connor had deliberately damaged the house so they couldn’t sell it to anyone else but him at a reduced price.

She said that it was almost four years since O’Connor threatened that “things were going to get nasty” and in that time he had made her family’s lives “a living hell”.

“Our worst fear became a reality when we finally got our home back – on that morning, 23 July, 2018, my world caved in on top of me,” she told the court.

“The discovery of the very serious and dangerous damage to the attic where he removed 27 rafters was the last straw.”

“Homelessness was high on my mind at that time. We feared we would lose both the rental house and our own family home if we could not sell the rental and pay our escalating linked mortgages debt to the bank.

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“Our despair was overwhelming. We were trapped in a never-ending nightmare.”

O’Mahony told the court how the financial strain caused by the events had left the family with no choice but to cut back on groceries, clothing and heating.

She also revealed that the stress caused her to collapse and be taken to hospital.

Denis O’Connor has spent the last two months in custody pending sentence.

The judge told the court he had a huge amount of sympathy for O’Mahony. He said that in spite of the compensation paid to the family, he was still “singularly unimpressed” by the demeanour of O’Connor in court.

“I heard all of the evidence and am aware of the devastation and damage caused to the householder,” he said.

“The householder was very much at risk from Denis O’Connor. He was let in there [to the house] in good faith. The damage and distress caused to the couple was epic.”

However, accounting for O’Connor’s guilty plea, his lack of previous convictions and payment of compensation, he jailed the accused for two years, suspending the entirety of the sentence.

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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