DNA testing used to trace stolen cattle in Co. Clare

DNA testing was used to trace stolen cattle through their progeny in Co. Clare, according to the Clare Champion.

The use of DNA testing by Gardai and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was key to linking the theft of the animals to castle rustler, Padraig O’Brien, Ennis Circuit Criminal Court heard today.

O’Brien (42), from Magherigh, Mountshannon, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of theft offences, relating to the animals worth €17,000, the Clare Champion reported.

The offences involved the theft of five in-calf heifers from Bohatch, Mountshannon between January 17 and 18, 2015.

Six heifers were also taken from Kilrateera, Mountshannon between May 23 and 24, 2013 and four cows were reported stolen from Bohatch between December 8 and 9, 2013.

The three separate thefts were reported by 74-year-old John Forde, who runs a suckler herd in Mountshannon.

‘Hard Frost’ proves the downfall of repeated cattle rustler

It is reported that Gardai were unable to make much headway during the investigation of the cattle thefts which took place in 2013.

But at the time of the 2015 theft there had been a hard frost; Gardai were able to detect ‘sporadic hoof marks on the ditches’ which led them to O’Brien’s farmyard, some 2km away, the Clare Champion reported.

The five stolen heifers were recovered on his farm, Detective Garda Bernard Casey of Killaloe Garda Station told the court.

O’Brien reportedly denied any involvement in the theft of the five heifers and in the two thefts which occurred in 2015.

A 10-month long investigation, involving the Department, was launched.

Using DNA testing the Gardaí were able to connect the outstanding stolen cattle to relatives of the animals and ultimately link them to O’Brien.

Links to the stolen cattle were found in Louth, Mayo, Galway, Tipperary and elsewhere in Clare.

O’Brien’s request for 40 replacement tags in 2013 was also regarded as a ‘a suspiciously high amount’ and is believed to have aided the tracing efforts.

Some of the Stolen cattle were recovered

It has been reported that of the four cattle stolen in December 2013, three were recovered through DNA testing and the fourth was recovered due to admissions by O’Brien.

However, only one of the six animals in the initial theft were located; but it could not be returned to the owner as it was sold on to a feed-lot herd and could only go to slaughter from there, the Clare Champion reported.

An independent assessor estimated the total consequential loss to Forde at €17,000 and this sum was offered as compensation by O’Brien, it added.

It is believed O’Brien only admitted his involvement in the thefts when he was presented with the DNA evidence.

O’Brien reportedly stole the cattle due to financial pressures and he is believed to have sent an apology to both the Forde family and the Gardai for his actions.

The Presiding Judge, Gerald Keys, has reserved judgement on the case until next Friday, April 7.