A 20-year-old man arrested at Gatwick Airport, who faces charges linked to two ‘distraction’ burglaries at the homes of two pensioners in Northern Ireland, has been granted High Court bail.
Patrick Sean Murphy – a member of the travelling community whose address was given as a caravan site at Shootacrane Lane in Buckinghamshire – is facing two charges of burglary with intent to steal.
Belfast High Court heard that on both occasions, the households targeted were occupied by vulnerable, elderly residents.
Crown representative Philip Henry said there was a gap between the two offences, but that the modus operandi was the same.
The first incident occurred at Greenisland on January 10, 2012 while the second was committed in Belfast on March 21, 2014.
Telling the court Murphy was connected to both incidents via fingerprints and DNA, Mr Henry said: “The common feature between both incidents is that a male, who the prosecution say was the applicant, goes in to an elderly person’s residence under the auspices of working for the water authority. After knocking the door, he says there’s a problem in the area and could he come in to test and check the water. He’s wearing a high-visibility vest to give the appearance of legitimacy.”
The High Court was told that Murphy was arrested at Gatwick Airport after returning from a holiday in Egypt. He was charged with two counts of burglary with intent to steal. He initially gave ‘no comment’ responses during police interview, but after the fingerprint and DNA evidence was put to him, he made a prepared statement.
Mr Henry said that despite having no criminal record in this jurisdiction, the Crown was opposing Murphy being granted bail on the grounds he may reoffend and there was a risk of flight or failing to turn up for his trial.
Defence barrister Tom MacCreanor told the court that while his mother lived in England, Murphy’s girlfriend was from Belfast and had offered him a place to live at her Shore Road home.
He added that Murphy denied both charges.
Saying there was no risk of flight as Murphy’s girlfriend was “one of the anchors that he says would keep him here”, Mr MacCreanor spoke of his client’s lack of criminal record, adding he “has not been a drain on the state” as he does not claim benefits, and picks up work as a casual labourer.
Mr Justice Maguire agreed to release Murphy on bail, with several conditions imposed, including living with his girlfriend on the Shore Road and reporting to police three times a week.