'˜Serial burglar' vanished after being let out for niece's funeral

An alleged serial burglar who vanished after being let out of prison for a niece's funeral seven years ago decided to stay with his 'devastated' family, the High Court heard today.

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

Edward McDonagh, 44, failed to return to custody following temporary compassionate release while charged with a two-day crime spree in July 2010.

He was only returned to Northern Ireland last week on a European Arrest Warrant after serving a separate sentence in the Irish Republic.

McDonagh, of Townlui Manor in Drogheda, Co Louth, denies 29 charges connected to a spate of offences across parts of Armagh and Tyrone.

They include six counts each of burglary and theft, interference with vehicles, handling stolen goods, and nine charges of criminal damage.

Prosecutors said the alleged offences included breaking into a farm shed with a sledgehammer, and raiding other properties after ramming through electric gates.

While previously remanded in custody on those charges, McDonagh was granted day-release from prison for his niece’s funeral in August 2010.

But the court heard he never returned - leading to the seizure of a £6,500 cash surety put up by a relative.

Opposing his latest application for full bail, Crown lawyer Natalie Pinkerton claimed he could abscond again.

“He simply left the jurisdiction and was unable to be located for a considerable period of time,” she said.

Richard McConkey, defending, accepted McDonagh had previously “let the court down”.

But the barrister argued that the sudden death of his client’s niece and other personal circumstances should be taken into account.

“He felt that because the family were so devastated by the loss he would remain there,” Mr McConkey submitted.

“He was also the victim of a serious assault in which he lost an eye in October 2010, perhaps that explains why he didn’t come back.”

The court was told McDonagh maintains his innocence and intends to contest the charges against him.

Refusing bail, however, Mr Justice Maguire said the application was “coloured irredeemably” by his behaviour in 2010.

The judge added: “Having grossly abused the facility of bail before, he’s not a fit person for granting bail.” ends