A man who investigated the theft, and then detected his stolen boat in an enclosed garage in a different county was rewarded with a compensation order worth €1,000 more than the damage done.
Local taxi driver Gerald Wykes was in the District Court this week (January 22 ) to give evidence against Seamus Egan (38 ), of Longford, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, who was pleading guilty to the theft of the boat and its trailer from the Jolly Mariner marina in Athlone on November 3.
Mr Wykes told how, on discovering the theft, he viewed the CCTV at the marina until he could identify the vehicle used in the theft, and its registration number.
By chance he spotted this vehicle at B&Q in Arcadia three days later, and waited in the carpark for two hours until the driver returned.
He then followed the van to Knockcroghery before spotting it in a driveway.
Mr Wykes and his son went to the front door and confronted Egan with the CCTV evidence of the theft which they had downloaded on their phones.
Egan admitted the offence and offered the stolen items back to Mr Wykes, but had had both boat and trailer repainted, removed two swivel chairs, and ground his initials into the trailer chassis with an angle grinder.
“Did you ever consider the Gardaí, now they’re looking for recruits?” said Judge Seamus Hughes to Mr Wykes, to the great amusement of the court.
“And you had every taxi driver in Athlone on the lookout for you,” he added.
Inspector Aidan Minnock told how Egan had 20 previous convictions, the most recent of which was for drunk driving in 2011.
“Mr [Padraig] Quinn, why is your client in the business of stealing boats? How was he going to dispose of it, and is there a market for this?” asked the judge of Egan’s solicitor.
Mr Quinn explained how his client was in financial difficulty with a credit union loan, and that his partner was pregnant at the time.
“He succumbed to temptation, he accepts that,” said Mr Quinn.
He added that Egan had €150 in court towards compensation, and would be able to offer a total of €1,000 available by May.
“That’s a very conservative estimate,” said the judge, who then asked Mr Wykes for a breakdown of the work required to restore the boat to its original condition, and accepted his valuation of €1,500.
“I intend to teach you a lesson. If you were a boat owner you wouldn’t like that. You’re lucky you’re not walking the plank. I want €2,500,” said the judge.
“That’ll take longer,” said Mr Quinn.
“I’m a patient man. You’ll remember this episode for the rest of your life,” said the judge, before remanding Egan on continuing bail until April 23 for the first €1,000.