Category: Archive

Around Ireland End of a dream in Killarney

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

What should have been a happy holiday in Ireland for an elderly Irish American ended in a lonely courtroom, and a quick flight back to the US.

Tommy Byrne, who is 72, who had longed to travel to Ireland for many years, claimed he was robbed of his money and all of his belongings in Dublin, according to The Examiner newspaper.

Penniless, Byrne left a Killarney guesthouse across the road from the local garda station without paying his bill. But Garda soon had him in custody. Byrne had no credit cards and no money when searched and his son, who is an attorney, will now be paying the bill, according to gardaí.

Byrne, from Illinois, was charged with obtaining credit of £8,520 by false pretenses at Linden House, Killarney. Flanked by two gardaí, who had earlier arrested him, he was brought before the District Court, in Castleisland, where the story of his holiday hell surfaced.

He booked into Linden House, had dinner with a bottle of wine, three gins and a lemonade, gardai said. However, he left in the morning without paying and put the key in the reception rack, gardai said. Inspector Pat Sullivan said Byrne claimed that his credit cards and other belongings were stolen from him in Dublin.

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His son had since been in contact with the gardaí and had undertaken to pay the money that was due.

Lonely housewife

The ad was buried in the columns of the wanted section of the magazines.

"Mid-Antrim housewife available for your fantasies. Please don’t bore me, because I get that already. Discretion and cleanliness expected. Write to . . . "

But would-be partners get a little more than they expected. They did not know they were about to be drawn into a two-year web of intrigue and blackmail.

The bored and lonely housewife was a figment of the imagination of 43-year-old Antrim chimney sweep Lionel Knapper, reports the Belfast Telegraph. The ad was part of an elaborate sting designed to extort thousands of pounds from men who moved in the world of sex magazines.

More than 90 sent replies, the newspaper said. Responses poured in from all over Ireland including Ballymena, Enniskillen, Derry, Coleraine, Dungannon, Portadown and Larne.

The men then received a letter, inviting them to forward explicit photos of themselves.

At that point interest cooled among most of them, but the "housewife," who Knapper called Roselyn Loughan, did harvest a colorful collection of snapshots. Some men posed naked in various positions. Others, who were slightly more reserved or who may have misunderstood the lady’s intentions, donned their Sunday best three-piece suits.

The more daring respondents then received another letter.

Then, the men were asked to turn up at a phone box in Antrim. The phone would ring and they would be given further instructions.

A steady procession of excited men turned up at the phone box, but of course the call never came. Instead, Lionel Knapper lurked nearby, filming their every move.

But in 1998, having waited patiently for two years, Knapper went for the kill.

Out of the blue, the men received another letter, allegedly from the housewife’s husband, but again the work of Knapper.

He said he had stumbled upon their letters to his wife and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Now, as a result he was divorcing his wife, he said.

Soon another letter arrived, this time from a private detective, saying he had been asked to investigate the breakdown of the marriage and wondered if they could help. Then Knapper made his first personal approaches. He demanded £5,000 from one man and £2,000 from another or else he would inform their family and friends about their secret.

Police were alerted when a third man asked a welfare group to help him flee the province. They persuaded the victim to arrange a meeting, which was bugged by the RUC’s Serious Crime Squad. Knapper was arrested soon after.

Detectives found videos and diaries in his home, documenting the various stages of his unfolding conspiracy. Knapper pleaded guilty to two charges of blackmail and one of attempted blackmail. He was jailed for three years, fined £835 and placed on probation for two years.

"Whatever your opinion of what these men were doing, this was a well-planned operation designed to make a lot of money from the weaknesses of these individuals," said one investigator of the case.

Double luck

As avid Manchester United fan Seán Farrell celebrated his team’s recent win in Barcelona. But little did the Offaly native realize the surprise that awaited him at home.

Farrell is one of the eight-member syndicate that shared a £4 million-plus Lotto jackpot, the Examiner newspaper reported. The winning ticket was a £6 quick-pick stub bought at a local store, just minutes from his home.

"It’s been manic in here. I wish we could have a Lotto winner every day," said Anne Conlon, co-owner of the Edenderry store which sold the ticket.

"But we have a winner all right and are looking forward to the celebrations continuing for days to come. We never before had a Lotto winner and we hope now we’ll have many more. The craic has been mighty and the excitement incredible."

The National Lottery office in Dublin confirmed that nobody had yet claimed the prize, fueling speculation that the syndicate will not collect their winnings until the eighth member returns from holiday. Farrell looks to have scored twice.

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