A NEWTOWNSTEWART man who was the victim of a series of scams – in which he had over £18,000 stolen from him – fears that more innocent people may be targeted by the trickster who has gone on the run.
Patrick Gormley says he has “learnt a tough lesson” after he lent £70 to a passing motorist who had run out of diesel. What followed was a litany of scams and a web of deceit which saw thousands of pounds drained from his bank account.
Last week, Julie Larkin (39) of Barrack Street, Coalisland was jailed for her role in the joint enterprise with her estranged partner Peter McDonagh (49) of Fox Street, Portadown.
McDonagh, who was given a four year prison term, remains at large, as he absconded during the trial at Dungannon Crown Court.
Speaking to the Chronicle this week, Patrick Gormley – who had been living in Newtownstewart for almost 20 years at the time of the scam – said he felt a sense of shame that he had been taken in by the couple who had struck up a relationship with him, using aliases and fictitious lawyers in the charade which centred on the estate of a deceased uncle.
The pair also took advantage of his kind-hearted nature by stooping to claim that McDonagh was suffering from cancer.
A published poet, Patrick penned five verses as a letter of thanks to the police and his legal representatives who helped secure the prosecutions.
Recalling his first encounter with McDonagh back in May 2013. Mr Gormley said he never met McDonagh before but “felt sorry” for him and simply wanted to “help someone in need”.
During the court proceedings, Mr Gormley was referred to a “vulnerable victim”, something which he contends.
“I am not sure why they said that I was vulnerable. Maybe they were saying that I was not street-wise enough, I’m not really sure, but all I know is that I am a lot more streetwise now, that’s for sure.”
He said his decision to speak out in public – something which few victims of fraud ever do – is motivated by a desire to warn others.
“If this could happen to me, then it could happen to someone else. They seemed like genuine people and I suppose I was probably too trusting of them.
“That money was my life savings. They didn’t take it all in the one go – they took a thousand here and a thousand there, that’s how they did it.”
During the trial, Patrick had an opportunity to speak to the couple, but decided to walk on past them in the Dungannon Courthouse.
“I didn’t really feeling anything at all when I saw them there. There was no anger, or hatred.”
For Patrick, his real concern is that McDonagh is not behind bars and effectively free to repeat his crime.
“The one thing that I’m unhappy about is that he is still out. He shouldn’t have been able to do a
runner like that.
“I’m worried that he’ll do the same thing all over again, that’s the type of person he is.”