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​Dine-and-Dash Couple Jailed and Fined

​Dine-and-Dash Couple Jailed and Fined

Posted by Emma on 31st May 2024

A couple who used their children to evade paying over £1,000 in restaurant bills has been jailed. Bernard McDonagh, 41, and his wife Ann McDonagh, 39, were caught on CCTV dining and dashing at a Swansea restaurant, footage of which went viral last month.

The McDonaghs, from Sandfields, Port Talbot, pleaded guilty at Swansea Magistrates' Court to failing to pay bills at five restaurants between August 2023 and April 2024. Ann also admitted to thefts from two supermarkets and obstructing a police officer. She received a 12-month prison sentence, while her husband was sentenced to eight months.

The couple will serve half their sentences and must pay £2,185.70 in compensation: £1,168 for unpaid restaurant bills and £1,017 for stolen items. Swansea Crown Court revealed they used over 40 aliases and 18 birth dates in fraud.

Judge Paul Thomas KC described their actions as driven by "pure and utter greed," noting the dine-and-dash incidents were "carefully pre-planned." He condemned the "ruthlessly exploitative" use of their children, who would wait in restaurants while the parents pretended to go to a cashpoint.

One targeted restaurant, Bella Ciao in Swansea, had a £329 bill for T-bone steaks and double puddings left unpaid. Other restaurants included Isabella's in Porthcawl, River House in Swansea Docks, Golden Fortune in Port Talbot, and La Casona in Skewen.

Ann McDonagh also stole hundreds of pounds of household items and clothes from stores, including nearly £500 worth of clothes from Tommy Hilfiger in Bridgend. She falsely claimed to be nine months pregnant while in custody in March, resulting in her release.

The court heard a list of the couple's previous theft convictions. Judge Thomas pointed out Ann had more recent and numerous convictions. Bernard McDonagh's barrister, Giles Hayes, stated Bernard was "deeply embarrassed and ashamed" and apologized in open court. Ann McDonagh's lawyer, Andrew Evans, acknowledged a "pattern" of offences and suggested she might have acted out of grief from family bereavements.

Judge Thomas concluded: "Over eight months, you two engaged in sustained dishonesty, exploiting your children and ordering expensive items to leave without paying." He called Ann "a fluent and practised liar."

The Crown Prosecution Service noted the thefts' devastating impact on local family-run restaurants. Bella Ciao co-owner Tyrone Rees compared the incident to having £300 stolen from his wallet, expressing his family's vulnerability. Sam Vellanchola from River House restaurant was "extremely pleased" justice caught up with the couple.

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