A Donegal mother used a CCTV camera in her home to help catch a burglar who had been entering her house to steal money from her.
Enda McGowan (31) was arrested at the house in Letterkenny after a Garda sting operation.
McGowan, of Dromore, Letterkenny had been using a key to enter the house and steal money.
Roisin Mulhern set up the security camera when she became suspicious about disappearances of cash.
The trainee chef pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court to three counts of burglary and one count of handling stolen property.
The court heard he was stealing to feed an online gambling habit.
Garda Darren Carter told the court that Roisin Mulhern reported money being stolen from her house on April 10th past.
She had installed the camera after concerns about money going missing. Money went missing after the night of April 8th and 9th. When she viewed the footage she saw a male entering her home with the use of a key and taking money from her handbag.
Ms Mulhern and her three daughters, aged between seven and ten-years-old, moved out of their home temporarily and gardaí set up a surveillance operation.
Garda Carter told the court that on the night of April 30th a man entered the house at 1.19am through a side door that he had locked earlier. He took a €20 note from the handbag of the owner.
The man, who had a torch and was wearing gloves, had a key to the property. He put up some resistance and was arrested.
Ms Mulhern said she did not know the man and he should not have had a key.
The court heard that she had €50 stolen from her home on April 9th and €250 stolen on April 6th.
McGowan admitted to gardaí he was the male on the CCTV footage and admitted committing the three burglaries.
The court heard McGowan drove four miles from his parents home where he was living to carry out the crimes. Clothing he was wearing on the night of the last burglary was found in a 2004 Volkswagen Golf he owns.
The court heard he had 46 previous convictions for theft and road traffic offences.
In a victim impact statement read to court Ms Mulhern said that since January she had noticed money going missing. “I thought I was losing my mind. I lost trust in myself,” she said.
“I’m having trouble sleeping and having nightmares. These events have left me fearful outside of the house too. I am fearful and scared of it happening again,” she said.
She said she had had to borrow money to change the locks and get a security system installed.
The court heard McGowan is the son of a retired Garda and a retired school teacher.
McGowan’s father told Judge John O’Hagan that his son had admitted he had a gambling problem to him just two months ago.
Enda McGowan told the court that he offered his "sincere and deepest apologies to Ms Mulhern and her family for the stress".
“I have to take full responsibility for what I have done.I intend to stop gambling. I have no intention of gambling again. I am ashamed.”
Defence counsel Peter Nolan (BL) said it was “an insidious, mean-spirited sneaky and cowardly crime.”
Judge John O'Hagan said McGowan knew what he was doing wrong. He said the impact of the crime on Ms Mulhern was that she was afraid to be in her own home.
He said mitigating factors were the early plea of guilty, and the expression of remorse.
"The most disturbing thing about a case like this is the shame you have brought to your own family. The shame that pervades over your family is huge.
“Perhaps it should be a warning to young people about gambling online. I hope you have success in beating that addiction - it is a dreadful addiction.”
Judge O’Hagan jailed McGowan for 18 months and suspended the last six months.