Padraig O Brien (42), Magherigh, Mountshannon, Co Clare, pleaded guilty in February to 15 counts of theft of livestock, valued at an estimated €17,000 from his neighbour John Forde, Sellernane, Mountshannon, Co Clare.
John Ford (74) had been a victim of theft from his lands on three separate occasions by Padraig O’Brien.
In the case, detective Bernard Casey outlined how no evidence was found in relation to the first two thefts.
Hard frost and hoof prints
Upon investigating the third theft, detective garda Casey told the court that they had found hoof prints along the ditch on the road where the theft took place, made possible by the hard frost the night before.
The hoof prints continued for up to 2km and stop outside the roadway to Padraig O’Brien’s farmyard.
With permission, the premises was searched and the missing animals were located in a concealed and segregated area of the accused's farmyard.
Upon questioning, the accused denied any knowledge or involvement.
A 10-month investigation began, involving An Garda Síochána and the Department of Agriculture, using DNA evidence in an attempt to ascertain whether O’Brien had been involved in the previous thefts.
Casey told the court that when DNA sampling of the progeny and dams of the stolen animals was crosschecked against the DNA samples of animals sold by Padraig O'Brien, all cows from the second theft were located, with one still in O’Brien’s herd.
O‘Brien's high number of replacement eartags (40) also contributed to the evidence against him.
Detective Garda Bernard Casey was widely praised by judge Gerald Keys, who called it the best garda investigation he had encountered.
The Department of Agriculture was also praised for its contribution, particularly in relation to the high standard of traceability that allowed the investigation to be successful.
Judge Gerald Keys was due to sentence Mr O’Brien on Thursday. However, the sentencing was postponed until Friday 7 April pending the review of a psychiatric report. O’Brien was remanded on bail until then.