This is the blind man caught by a farmer in a cattle barn wearing a balaclava, a vet’s rubber inspection glove and carrying a wooden brush shaft.
The completely bizarre incident came to light last week at Omagh Crown Court where 44-year-old Anthony Morris of Bradkeel Road in Plumbridge was found guilty of intending to cause damage to cattle and theft following a one day trial.
Morris was discovered by a farmer who had gone to investigate noises in his barn in the early hours of the morning on March 18 last year.
He had tried to hide, but the farmer and his brother caught Morris in a cattle pen and pinned him down until police arrived.
While he was being held, Morris, who had a torch strapped to his head and was also carrying blue rope and a pen knife, put on a foreign accent and said: “Me-me-steal-ear-tags. Me-me-look-at-tags.”
But when police arrived they unmasked Morris, who the farmer recognised because he’d done work for him in the past.
He was also wearing a body warmer stolen from the farmer’s lorry weeks earlier — but he denied this too.
During his trial, Morris came up with a host of weird and wonderful excuses for his actions in the cattle barn.
Morris’ crazy claims included:
- his balaclava, made from the leg of old tracksuit bottoms, was a “face warmer” he had lifted by mistake instead of a woollen cap;
- the wooden shaft was to help him keep his balance because medication made him dizzy;
- the rubber glove was already in the body warmer and he used it to clean fungi out of a water barrel; and
- he always carries a pen knife to open food for his 17 cats.
Morris was originally questioned about cruelty to animals but none of the cattle in the barn were injured and it was not specified in court what the allegations of cruelty involved.
He blamed his presence in the barn on a mystery man who Morris said “forced” him to go to look at ear tags on the cattle because he said the farmer had stolen three cows from him.
Morris said in court the unnamed man who was “a blast from the past” had threatened his 14-year-old son and turned up at his house where he had touched him “with something metal”.
Prosecution barrister Michael McAleer asked him: “Are you going to tell us what it was?”
“No,” Morris said.
“Was it a stick? A bar? A coat hanger?” asked the barrister.
Morris said: “It wasn’t a coat hanger.”
Asked if he had been touched with a gun, Morris said he was.
During his trial Morris had walked with the aid of a stick and claimed to be totally blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other.
He said that he can only see “black blobs” and was diagnosed with limited sight in 2005.
However in another bizarre twist, it emerged that even with his sight problems, Morris had managed to keep riding a motorbike.
Summing up, prosecution said the items Morris was carrying were “like a puzzle in a TV show” and described his explanations as “nonsense”.
Mr McAleer remarked that Morris’ unusual claims were an attempt to “fudge why he was in the barn that night”.
A jury took just an hour to convict Morris of intending to damage cattle and theft of the body warmer and a solar calculator which had been in the pocket.
His extensive criminal record including convictions for burglary, firearms, theft and traffic violations was then revealed.
He will be sentenced next month. Judge Phillip Babington allowed him to remain on bail.