Gardaí have thanked the people of south Kilkenny for their prompt response to a text alert circulated that proved crucial in solving a burglary at a farmer’s home last year.

James Berry, 36, from Hewitsland, New Ross, pleaded guilty to the burglary at a rural location outside Mullinavat on August 16, 2018. The victim, who was 80 at the time, said he is nervous since the burglary and is “not the same man I used to be”.

Sgt. P.J. Griffin said that on the date in question he was alerted to a break-in at a rural farm where an 80-year-old male was living alone.

During the court hearing he gave evidence that the injured party had left his home and gone to walk his dog at 11:00am. He then outlined how when the injured party returned he saw a guy coming out of a window.

He had his walking stick with him and struck the intruder with the stick once or twice and he left. The injured party then saw a second individual who confronted him with a knife.

Sgt. Griffin added: “One of the intruders dropped some cash at the gate and was picked up by the defendant who was driving a white van.”

The court then heard that Gardaí subsequently located two witnesses who were living locally and who gave descriptions of the van and a text alert was sent out.

Both the vehicle and the registered owner were identified and it was established that the ownership of the vehicle had changed in recent times.

Sgt. Griffin, meanwhile, told the court that CCTV footage tracked the van travelling from New Ross and onto Tullogher and Mullinavat and James Berry was later arrested.

He was detained at Thomastown Garda Station, and €2,055 in cash and a mobile phone were seized from him.

The court was told that the defendant admitted leaving New Ross and meeting a number of other people and to staying in the van while other individuals went into the home of the injured party.

‘Farmer was targeted’

Sgt. Griffin then went on to point out that the defendant “dropped the other guys off knowing what they were going to do”.

He continued: “He dropped them and got a phone call 10 minutes later when they were leaving and collected them. The 80-year-old man was targeted by these individuals; the defendant got €3,000 for his part in the break in.”

Prosecuting counsel Cephas Power, meanwhile, confirmed that according to the injured party “no more than €10,000” was taken.

Mr. Power also stressed to the court that the crime was “a joint enterprise” between the parties involved. 

‘Not the same man I used to be’

In a victim impact statement the victim outlined how “everywhere I go now, the place has to be locked up”.

He said he had to get an alarm and is nervous and uses a lock and chain on his gate.

“I am not the same man I used to be,” he said, before pointing to the fact that this was the third time his home was burgled.

Meanwhile, Berry’s defence barrister told the court that his client had a number of convictions that “were minor in nature” at the time of the offence.

“He was 22 and was under financial pressure as he was due to get married. He is happy that the €2,400 seized by Gardaí from him be given to the injured party; he has a further €600 in court for the injured party,” the counsel added.

He also pointed out to the court that Gardaí do not believe that the defendant was involved in the other two burglaries and added that his client wanted to apologise to the injured party.

“He wants him to know that he has nothing to fear from him or his family,” the counsel confirmed.

Judge Patrick Meghen subsequently imposed a sentence of three years and nine months. He suspended the final two years for a period of four years on condition that he enter a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.