A man was held captive against his will and forced to steal goods from a Claremorris supermarket, a district court has heard.
The vulnerable young man (24), who is a native of Co Kildare, pleaded guilty at Castlebar District Court to a charge of theft from Aldi supermarket in Claremorris.
Sgt Margaret O’Connor said staff at the supermarket contacted gardaí at 5pm on December 21, 2019, and reported that two people had left the store without paying for a trolley of items, including alcohol. The value of the goods was €776.54.
Later that evening, gardaí went to the scene of a single-vehicle accident at Ballygowan Bridge in Claremorris and encountered two people, including the defendant, standing beside the car.
Gardaí witnessed the accused remove a large number of items from the car but he could not provide a receipt for any of them. He replied ‘no comment’ when asked about the goods, which proved to be the ones taken from Aldi. Items valued at €220.24 were not fit for re-sale.
Solicitor Kim Gill said his client had been diagnosed with ADHD and autism and had been in care all his life. He was living independently when he befriended a woman on the internet. The woman called to his home, coaxed him out and held him against his will at a halting site.
“He wouldn’t have been found but for this accident, as he was being held under duress,” said Mr Gill.
The defendant’s carer told the court the accused was in the HSE’s care: “Last year he went missing for two months after he met a girl online. We could not make physical contact with him but had some phone contact.”
The carer said items were taken from the defendant’s home and a lady “led us on a detour of Waterford and Wexford”. The accused was reported missing to gardaí and was not located until the car crash in Claremorris. Gardaí later called to a halting site in Galway.
The witness said the young man was in very bad condition when found. Some of his teeth were broken, he had lost a lot of weight and was undernourished.
In relation to the theft from Aldi, the carer said: “Unfortunately this did happen, he did walk out of a shop with these items but we believe he was under the influence of others.”
The carer said that when gardaí asked who was driving the crashed car, the woman pointed to the accused but “we believe that he wasn’t driving”.
Dismissing the charge, Judge Fiona Lydon said the defendant had no previous convictions for theft and “this was all for love”.