Judge grants bail to shoplifting woman by '˜the skin of her teeth

A woman accused of shoplifting on a near daily basis received up to $100,000 selling the goods on eBay, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed Deirdre McKeown travelled throughout Northern Ireland stealing children’s toys, beauty products and other items which she then immediately advertised on the online auction site.

Details emerged as the 50-year-old, described by her barrister as a kleptomaniac, was granted bail but banned from entering any shop except her local grocery store.

McKeown, of Skerry Road East in Newtowncrommelin, faces nine charges of theft and three attempted thefts, along with possessing, concealing and transferring criminal property.

She is also accused of handling stolen goods including toys, clothing, carbon monoxide alarms and telephones, and careless driving connected to her arrest in May this year.

Asked to quantify the scale of the alleged stealing, a Crown lawyer said: “It’s suspected by police that she has received around $100,000 (US dollars) in relation to these transactions.”

Police were alerted in April after McKeown went into a post office to send eight parcels, the court heard.

An investigation established that a special edition Star Wars Lego set was being sold at less than half price on eBay.

The purchaser said he took a chance, believing it was too good to be true, but received the item new and boxed, according to the prosecution.

Police established a pattern of goods being sold on the site on a near daily basis - all from an account allegedly set up by McKeown.

“The prosecution case is the defendant steals almost every day, travelling throughout Northern Ireland,” the lawyer continued.

“The stolen items are photographed, sometimes in the defendant’s BMW jeep, and the photographs are loaded almost immediately on her eBay account.”

McKeown, a mother of four, was stopped in her vehicle on the outskirts of Ballymena on May 24 after allegedly being spotted driving at speeds of up to 90mph.

Mr Justice Treacy was also told more than $70,000 was found in her payment account.

Defence counsel Michael Ward confirmed his client has not making any admissions.

But he added: “She believes she is addicted to thieving, she is a kleptomaniac.”

Despite questioning the lack of professional evidence to back the assertion, the judge told McKeown she was getting out on bail “by the skin of her teeth”.

Identifying issues over the delay in progressing the case to trial, Mr Justice Treacy imposed a curfew, electronic tagging and prohibited her from travelling in a private vehicle.

Ordering a £1,000 cash surety as part the release conditions, he also directed: “She is not to enter any shop in Northern Ireland save for her local grocery store.