Burglar pays high price for Indian takeaway haul

A takeaway with a difference occurred in Ballinasloe last year when a burglar found a large cache of €500 notes – hidden in his local Indian restaurant.

Stephen Shaughnessy (23), from 11 Hymany Park, Ballinasloe, could not believe his luck and went on a spending spree the very next day, treating himself to a car, new clothes and a phone.

Shaughnessy pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last July to entering Noor Tandoori, Society Street, Ballinasloe, as a trespasser with intent to commit theft on February 24 last year.

Sentence was adjourned to last week for the preparation of reports.

Detective Thomas Keane told the sentence hearing Shaughnessy forced the rear door open and ransacked the entire restaurant before ransacking the adjacent cold room where he found a cash box containing up to €18,000, in mostly €500 notes.

Detective Sergeant Damien Lawlor arrested Shaughnessy four days later, after it became apparent he had gone on a spending spree in Athlone, treating himself to a car, a new phone and clothes.

Shaughnessy readily identified himself on CCTV footage which Gardai obtained from various retail outlets in Athlone where he had splashed the cash.

Det Keane said Shaughnessy had 81 previous convictions and was currently serving a two-year sentence, imposed last May, for criminal damage and motoring offences.

He said he had other convictions for assaults, burglaries, thefts, and two for arson.

Det Keane said the restaurant was owned by a 67-year-old man who had saved the cash as part of his retirement plan.

Gardaí, he said, recovered €3,850 of the stolen money but the victim was at the loss of the rest.

Defence barrister, Deirdre Browne, said Shaughnessy had no idea that amount of cash was on the premises when he broke in that night.

“He struck gold, if you like and he had no idea that amount of money would be there,” she said.

She said Shaughnessy had been neglected and abandoned by his parents as a young child and had been reared by his maternal grandparents.  He had developed drug and alcohol addictions, she added.

Judge Rory McCabe sentenced Shaughnessy to four years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for five years on condition he come under the supervision of the probation service on his release.