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Married couple jailed for ‘dine and dash’ offences in UK

A married couple who committed serial “dine and dash” offences in Britain – racking up large bills for food and drink before leaving without paying – have been given prison sentences.

39-year-old Ann and Bernard McDonagh, 41, both of Port Talbot in Wales, ordered three-course meals for themselves and their family including T-bone steaks and desserts, with some being sent back uneaten.

Swansea Crown Court heard the pair, who used more than 40 aliases and 18 dates of birth between them, dishonestly obtained food and drink at four restaurants and one takeaway in the south Wales area, with the unpaid bills totalling £1,168.10 (€1,374).

The couple, who pleaded guilty to five joint charges of fraud, were arrested after images of their scam were posted on social media.

Ann McDonagh also admitted four counts of shoplifting, including at designer store Tommy Hilfiger, taking items worth £1,017.60 (€1,197).

Judge Paul Thomas sentenced Ann McDonagh to 12 months in prison and Bernard McDonagh to eight months, telling them their actions could have been motivated by “pure and utter greed”.

“From the autumn of last year to spring of this year, you two set out on a deliberate course of sustained dishonesty,” the juge said.

“You would go to restaurants with your own family. You would have food and drink served to you to the value of hundreds of pounds and then you would cynically and brazenly leave without paying.

“You would order the most expensive items on the menu such as steaks in the full knowledge that you had no intention whatsoever of paying for them.”

The judge said that using children to wait in the restaurants while pretending to go to an ATM was “ruthlessly exploitative”. The children would then run off.

“You were not going to these places to feed you and your family, it was criminality for criminality’s sake – to see if you could get away with it,” Judge Thomas said.

“I have no doubt, apart from the greed element, you had got a buzz out of what you were able to get away with on a regular basis.”

The judge added that the behaviour of the family, from the Traveller community, would “fuel and reinforce” negative stereotypes.

Ann and Bernard McDonagh arriving for sentencing at Swansea Crown Court

Prosecutor Alycia Carpanini told the court that the couple went to a restaurant in Swansea with three children at 7pm on 9 August 2023.

“They dined at the location and ordered a large amount of food.

“Ann McDonagh attempted payment. She asked where the nearest cashpoint was. Ann McDonagh left a child in the restaurant to wait for her return and to pay.

“It was at this point the child asked to go to the toilet and ran from the restaurant. The total bill was £267.60 (€315).”

On 6 September, Ann McDonagh went to a Tesco Extra store in Swansea and loaded a trolley with toiletries and alcohol worth £126.60 (€149) before pushing it through the self-service checkout without paying.

The family ordered a Chinese takeaway costing £99.40 (€117) to their home address on 31 January last.

Ms Carpanini said the meal was handed over before the family closed the door in the delivery driver’s face and did not pay for it.

On 3 February, Ann McDonagh stole six polo shirts and one pair of chinos worth £442 (€520) from the Tommy Hilfiger store at Bridgend Designer Outlet by hiding them in her gilet jacket.

She returned on 17 February and was seen breaking security tags off items before trying to conceal them, making off in a blue Ford Transit van – a motability vehicle – with £49 (€58) of goods.

On 23 February, the couple and four children went to a restaurant in Skewen where they ordered three course meals with sides, worth £276.60 (€325), before leaving without paying.

Ann McDonagh shoplifted from Sainsburys in Bridgend on 25 February, taking clothing and other items worth £400 (€470).

She was arrested for separate offences – which were not proceeded with – on 13 March and questioned.

Ms Carpanini said: “The defendant told the custody sergeant that she was nine months pregnant. The on-duty medical officer instructed that she had to be released.

“She was bailed before interview. The Crown say the defendant was not pregnant on that occasion and lied.”

Ann McDonagh later admitted a charge of obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty.

On 27 March, the couple went to a restaurant in Porthcawl and ordered £196 (€230) of food and drink. Ann McDonagh tried to pay with a card that was declined three times.

She told staff she would go to an ATM and left a child at the restaurant. They ran out 10 minutes later, with the family seen leaving in a white vehicle.

On 19 April, the couple along with five others went to a restaurant in Swansea having pre-booked a table under the name Lucy Logan.

Ann McDonagh attempted to pay the £329.10 (€387) bill with a card that was declined, and told staff she would get money from an ATM – leaving a teenager there while she went.

Ms Carpanini said: “After five minutes, the boy received a phone call and said ‘oh no, really, I will be there now’. The owner attempted to stop the boy from leaving, however, he ran away”.

Representing Bernard McDonagh, Giles Hayes said his client had brought the money with him to court to pay it back.

He described the father-of-six “deeply embarrassed and ashamed” by his actions.

Andrew Evans, representing Ann McDonagh, said she had suffered family bereavements and may have carried out the frauds “to try to make herself feel better”.


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