Couple in Wales jailed for series of ‘dine and dash’ offences

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Ann and Bernard McDonagh from Port Talbot ‘cynically and brazenly’ defrauded restaurants, says judge

A couple have been jailed for carrying out a string of “dine and dash” offences, racking up large bills for food and drink before leaving without paying.

A judge at Swansea crown court said Ann McDonagh, 39, and Bernard McDonagh, 41, had “cynically and brazenly” defrauded restaurants and a takeaway in south Wales.

Judge Thomas KC told the court that the couple, from Port Talbot, had ordered more than they could eat – including T-bone steaks – just to see if they could get away with it and got a buzz out of their spree. “It was criminality for criminality’s sake,” he said.

The court was told the couple were from a “very large Travelling community” and the judge criticised them for reinforcing negative stereotypes.

It emerged that Bernard McDonagh had 27 convictions, including for affray, criminal damage and theft, and that Ann McDonagh had 18 convictions, many for shoplifting. He had 23 aliases, and she had 20. The judge said he believed Ann McDonagh played the leading role and jailed her for 12 months. Bernard McDonagh was given eight months.

The pair dishonestly obtained food and drink at four restaurants and one takeaway in south Wales, with the unpaid bills totalling more than £1,000.

Their “well drilled” modus operandi was to order lavishly, often leaving much of the food. Ann McDonagh would present a “dud” card. When it failed, they said they would fetch some cash but never returned.

They ordered their most expensive meal – including T-bone steaks and double dessert portions – from the newly opened Bella Ciao, a family-run Italian restaurant in Swansea.

The restaurant’s co-owner Giovan Cangelosi said in a victim personal statement: “I felt that I had not protected my restaurant and had failed. I found myself doubting customers and worrying it might happen again. I found it hard to sleep at night.” The restaurant thought about getting people to pay first and increasing security.

Ann McDonagh also committed offences of shoplifting, removing security tags and stealing items worth more than £1,000.

Andrew Evans, defending Ann McDonagh, said it was difficult to ascertain her motive for ordering food that was not eaten. The judge intervened and suggested it could be greed, or that she got a buzz from it.

Giles Hayes, for Bernard McDonagh, said McDonagh was deeply embarrassed and ashamed. He said the defendant had six children and that neighbours had vandalised their house when they heard what the pair had done.