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Fingerprint match catches men who ransacked Castlebar ‘drinking den’

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Fingerprints left at the scene of a ransacked house in Chestnut Grove in Castlebar led to the conviction of two local men.
Michael Maughan (21) of 60, Chestnut Grove, Castlebar, and Bernard Ward (20) of 124 Manor Village, Castlebar, both pleaded not guilty of criminal damage at what was described as a ‘drinking den’.
The men were before Castlebar District Court on Wednesday last.
The charges related to damage caused to 42 Chestnut Grove, Castlebar. The property’s owner, Mary McGrath, told the court that damage to the property totalled €6,000.
She said she went to the house on Saturday, July 16, 2016, and saw that the back door had been broken in and there were beer cans on the landing. She arranged the securing of the property and left.
However, when she returned the next day the house was ‘wrecked’.
Windows were broken, the back door was broken in, cupboard presses in the kitchen had been pulled down, a leather suite in the sitting room had been slashed with a knife , a fire had been lit in the sitting room and there were beer cans and bottles strewn all over the house.
Garda Russell Gibbons said he was called to forensically examine the scene. He took a number of fingerprints and recovered some ‘blood-like’ substance from a mattress upstairs.

‘Having a laugh’
Garda Conor Doyle gave evidence of arresting both Michael Maughan and Bernard Ward on suspicion of criminal damage at 42 Chestnut Grove.
Garda Doyle said both men said they were never at the property and when it was put to them about forensic evidence, they both said nothing would be found to tie them to the scene.
However, fingerprints showed matches for both men. Defending solicitor James Ward said that while there was evidence of both his clients being at the property, there was no evidence of criminal damage being perpetrated by them.
Michael Maughan told the court he was in the house but did not do any damage. He said he was there with Bernard Ward for ‘an hour or two’ and that there were ‘about ten people there’.
He said they had been drinking on the Saturday before going to watch a Mayo match, and that he had gone to this house after getting a call. He admitted he knew the house was vacant and that he lived nearby.
Inspector Gary Walsh put it to Maughan that he broke into the house two days in a row and used it as a ‘drinking den’. Maughan said the criminal damage ‘must have happened’ after he left.
Bernard Ward said he was ‘drinking and having a laugh’ but did not see any damage. He said there were around six people there. “I did nothing,” he insisted.
Judge Deirdre Gearty said she did not believe either defendant and found them both guilty.
Michael Maughan is currently under the terms of a suspended sentence for violent disorder and must go back before Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court on January 30 to face a breach of that sentence. He has also been sent for a Probation Report.
Bernard Ward, who has no previous convictions, has been sent for a Probation Report.
Both men are due back before Castlebar District Court on March 21 to allow preparation of the Probation Reports.

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