Gardaí and other State agencies are actively investigating the activities of a “Fagin” who is suspected of teaching dozens of children how to carry out shoplifting and robbery offences across the country.
n the latest incident linked to the woman’s gang, a bizarre attempted robbery, which has been described as a “stick-up”, was thwarted.
Sources say two of the woman’s juvenile “protégés” entered a convenience store in the centre of Longford town at 11.05pm on Tuesday in an attempt to rob it.
The duo, aged 14 and 16, arrived at the shop carrying “a stick covered…by a blanket” – apparently it was meant to look like a shotgun to scare the shop workers, sources said.
The teens left with nothing as their bemused victims refused to hand over any cash.
They were then picked up by gardaí within minutes, before being released without charge the following morning.
Sources say that they are now likely to be dealt with under the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme, rather than face criminal charges, because of their ages and the nature of the crime.
However, of more concern to gardaí is the alleged mastermind behind the activities of these children.
“This is a woman with who has around 100 previous convictions in relation to shoplifting and other theft offences,” a source told the Irish Independent last night.
“She is before the courts on other charges as well, and it is not unfair to call her a Fagin figure.
“Gardaí suspect she is grooming children to carry out these crimes,” the source added.
Fagin was a character in the classic Charles Dickens novel ‘Oliver Twist’.
He was the leader of a group of juvenile pickpockets.
Just like the Dickens character, sources say that the woman lives in extremely squalid conditions at her midlands home and is equally ruthless to anyone who crosses her path.
The woman, aged in her 40s, has links to some of the biggest gangs in the country and is one of the most prominent targets for gardaí in the midlands.
She has close links to brothers who were jailed for 10 and eight years each in June 2018 for a frenzied St Patrick’s Day attack in Longford in which a man was stabbed repeatedly in the face.
The unprovoked assault by Brandon and Ciaran McDonnell, from College Park in the town, was described in court as savage and left 37-year-old Vitor Vieira with life-threatening injuries.
Longford Circuit Court heard that the attack on Mr Vieira took place on the evening of St Patrick’s Day 2017 after the McDonnell brothers had spent most of the day drinking and taking drugs.