Grave Robbing in Co. Clare, very Disturbing for the Families of the Deceased? Ireland, is Losing, its Soul?

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Mother says woman who repeatedly stole from daughter’s grave committed act of ‘pure evil’

3rd May 2022

A mother has described as “pure evil” the actions of a woman who stole from and desecrated her daughter’s grave.

Kirsty Donnellan told Killaloe District Court, sitting in Ennis, Co Clare, she was “in a state of shock, anger and despair” after finding her daughter Scarlett’s grave had been desecrated in May 2020.

She said that to have someone disturb your child’s grave and steal items from it is “the most hideous crime one could ever be a victim of”.

In her victim impact statement, the mother of three told the court her eldest daughter, Scarlett (17), had died only 20 months before the thefts at Tulla graveyard.

Mairead O’Sullivan (41) has entered 18 separate guilty pleas concerning charges of stealing goods with a combined value of €597.50 from graves at cemeteries at Drumcliffe and Templemaley outside Ennis and also from Tulla.

There are 14 victims in the case as O’Sullivan, of Fergus View, Cappahard, Tulla Road, Ennis, stole from the same graves on several occasions.

Sgt Louis Moloney said four parties have made victim impact statements and handed these to Judge Mary Larkin, saying Ms Donnellan wished to deliver her own statement from the witness box.

She told the court: “For any parent to bury their child, it is the most distressing, traumatic event that one could ever have to face in their life, so for someone to literally disturb the grave and to steal items from it that are sentimental and represent something of that person, that has meaning behind it, is extremely upsetting and the most hideous crime one could ever be a victim of.

“When a loved one dies, the only thing we can do for them is to tend to their grave. We should be able to do that without fear.

“These thefts have added to my anxiety, pain and huge loss as a mother that grieves for her child. I should never have to visit my child’s grave and find it interfered with and desecrated. My daughter deserves to rest in peace.”

Ms Donnellan said Scarlett “died tragically and unexpectedly in September 2018, to which I still await answers regarding the circumstances surrounding the causes that led her to her death, and as of yet, no inquest has been held due to various garda and other investigations”.

On discovering the first of three thefts, Ms Donnellan recalled: “Still in the midst of my grieving, 20 months to the day after my daughter Scarlett died, I went to visit her grave.

“I had planted two miniature yellow rose bushes on her grave a week or so previous as Scarlett’s favourite colour was yellow.

“However, on the day of May 16, 2020, on visiting my daughter’s grave, I was in a state of shock, anger and despair and was in tears to find two holes in her grave where Ms O’Sullivan had dug out the rose bushes.

“This was not the only time my daughter’s grave was desecrated. Later, in July, items were taken from my daughter’s grave. Again, I was left distressed and crying and my faith in humanity questioned as who and why could someone carry out such an act of disrespect and pure evil.”

Ms Donnellan said the thefts from Tulla graveyard continued, despite pleas she made in local and national media for them to stop.

“All those pleas calling for a stop to the thefts didn’t stop Ms O’Sullivan from targeting them again. My daughter’s grave was targeted once again between April 13 and April 14, 2021,” she said.

“This time, yellow flowers that were in a pot, which her friends had put on her grave a week previous to mark Scarlett’s birthday, had been pulled out.

“Again, feelings of distress, anger and a fear of not being able to put anything on my daughter’s grave without it being taken or desecrated. I actually felt physically sick and could not understand how someone could do such a thing.”

O’Sullivan’s solicitor, Tara Godfrey, told Ms Donnellan her client wished to offer her apology to her and the other victims in the case.

Judge Mary Larkin asked Ms Donnellan how the court should exercise available punishment on O’Sullivan, and in reply she said: “With the anger, hurt and the upset it has caused, I do think an example should be made because I don’t think she should be able to get away with what she did.”

Asked if she believed O’Sullivan should go to jail, Ms Donnellan replied: “I don’t know.”

Judge Larkin said she would adjourn the case to September 6 for a probation report.

She said she hopes the probation report will find out why O’Sullivan committed these offences.

“They are very difficult to understand,” said added. “I want to hear from the Probation Service why someone would even consider going into a graveyard and desecrating a grave.”

The judge told Ms Donnellan “I am sorry for the distress that this has caused you.”

Ms Godfrey previously told the court that O’Sullivan is a married mother and “has no history of criminality”.

She stated her client “had a certain vulnerability around the time” of the thefts.

In one theft at Tulla cemetery, some time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2020, O’Sullivan stole six ornamental barrels containing flowers valued at €90, which were the property of Edel Hanrahan.

The charges show Aileen Tuohy was the victim of O’Sullivan’s grave theft spree on three occasions in 2020.

Between May 14 and May 16, O’Sullivan stole rose bushes valued at €10, which were the property of Ms Tuohy at Tulla cemetery.

On July 12/13, O’Sullivan stole a flowerpot valued at €2.50 from Ms Tuohy at Tulla, and on September 3/4, she struck again and stole from Ms Tuohy two white solar lanterns valued at €100 from Tulla.

Other items stolen from graves included three dahlia plants, a wicker window box, yellow flowers and flowerpots.

The thefts began in May 2020 and continued until April 2021 before gardaí identified O’Sullivan as the culprit.

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