Saturday 24 August 2019

Chalice theft 'look-out' now changes his story


A PROBATION Officer's Report has been sought in the case of a young Clonroche man charged with aiding and assisting a burglary at Ramsgrange Church last year in which three chalices were stolen - including one of historical significance that was used by the priest who exorcised Loftus Hall.

Before Wexford District Court last Tuesday was Thomas McKeown, whose address was given as 1 Templenacrocha, Clonroche.

The court previously heard he acted as a ' lookout' for the burglary between April 14 and April 15 at Ramsgrange.

Detective Garda David Flynn from New Ross Garda Station told the court that on April 15, 2011 the Sacristy of Ramsgrange Church was broken into and ransacked and a safe containing three old antique chalices was stolen.

One of the chalices was valued at €6,000, the other €500 and the third - which dates back to 1742 and which to Fr Thomas Broaders, who according to well-founded tradition exorcised the devil from Loftus Hall - has no known value.

These chalices, the court heard, were subsequently recovered the following day by the seaside.

During the course of their investigations, Gardai arrested the defendant. Detective Garda Flynn told the court that it is accepted by Gardai that the defendant acted as a look out for the burglary and was put under such pressure by a family member.

The defendant's counsel explained that his 21-year-old client was put under pressure and is in fear of this particular person.

'He did not participate but an admission was forthcoming of the pressure he was put under,' said the defence counsel.

The defendant told the court that he wasn't at the church 'at all' and his involvement in the incident is not what he said to Gardai under interview.

He told the court that he is afraid of this particular person and afraid of physical harm that might be caused to him and explained that in the past there has been incidents where he harmed him.

He explained that if he did not made the admissions to Gardai that he did under interview, he would have been subject to physical harm, and admitted to being at the scene out of fear of this person.

'You are saying now you made it all up,' questioned Superintendent Aidan Brennan.

'I'm afraid, sure...I was threatened on the phone by this person that I made statements by him before,' replied the defendant.

'How could you know about the job if you were not there?' further questioned the Superintendent, to which the defendant replied that he heard from friends that the Church had been broken into.

'I don't believe that,' replied the Superintendent.

' This is an unusual set of circumstances. This person has put the defendant in a legitimate state of fear over his that the defendant has the benefit of hindsight he is able to find resolve to tell the truth so to speak,' added his counsel.

'He has had an unfortunate period in which he has been associated, not through his own choice, with unsavoury characters...while credibility is a huge issue here there is no reason to believe the defendant is untruthful,' said the counsel, who urged the court to accept his client's course of events. ' His demeanour today is indicative of the fear he is in'.

However, Judge Gerard Haughton said the question remains if the statements or evidence is correct. 'It seems the answers during the course of the interview are factual...The defendant in interview gives information about a burglary that is not under investigation and gives details of that and says who was with him. He says he was afraid of a particular individual...You are asking me to believe he was so afraid of an individual that he made statements saying this individual was also involved - it doesn't make sense,' said Judge Haughton.

'I don't believe him - the only thing I believe of what he has said in the witness box is his name,' said the Judge who sought a Probation Officer's Report and adjourned the case until October 9.

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