18 Aug 2022

Jail for thief who rummaged through pockets of overdose victim who was 'either dead or was dying'

Jail for thief who rummaged through pockets of overdose victim who was 'either dead or was dying'

A thief who rummaged through the pockets of an unresponsive man in a laneway who was later discovered to have died during the night has been jailed.

The court heard Andrew Stammers died of a drug overdose in the laneway at some point that night but it was not possible to establish if he was dead when Owen Comerford (34) and his accomplice stole from him.

The two men passed by the victim again later that night and raised the alarm after noticing he was still in the same position and they waited with him until medical assistance arrived.

Garda reviewing CCTV footage from the area later noticed that the two men had rummaged through Mr Stammers pockets when they initially encountered him earlier that night.

Comerford of Sean O'Casey Avenue, Dublin 1, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from Andrew Stammers at Adare Lane on October 19, 2017. 

Today Judge Melanie Greally said this was “an opportunistic theft on a man who vulnerable and was either dead or was dying”.

She said that the circumstances of Mr Stammers' death had caused massive additional distress to his grieving partner. The court heard the deceased had been off drugs for a number of years but for unknown reasons he went into the city that day and took heroin.

Judge Greally imposed a prison term of 18 months for the theft.

The court heard that Mr Stammers had been a recovering drug addict and had left a life of addiction behind him. Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, said that for “some inexplicable reason” he went into Dublin city that day and took heroin.

He died of an overdose at some point that night. It was difficult to establish his exact time of death as Mr Stammers remained in the same position in the lane throughout the CCTV footage.

Detective Garda Keith Fleming agreed with Rebecca Smith BL, defending, that Comerford had written a letter of apology in which he accepted full responsibility for his part in the offence. He agreed Comerford was not the instigator.

A garda witness agreed with Ms Smith that Comerford had struggled with drug addiction from an early age.

The court heard that Comerford was charged in December 2017 and while he out on bail for this offence he carried out three burglaries in the city as well as using a screwdriver to threaten staff in a newsagent on Dublin's East Wall road.

Judge Greally noted that the family who ran that shop had decided to close the business because they no longer felt safe after Comerford made threats to burn the shop down.

She imposed additional prison terms for these offences, bringing his final sentence to five and a half years. She suspended the final 12 months on condition that he engage with the Probation Services drug treatment programmes.

She noted that Comerford had gone into institutional care as a child and was damaged by a background of deprivation.

Last March John Murdiff (33), of Kippure Park, Finglas, Dublin was jailed for two years for his role in the theft.

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