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Rapist and pal are jailed for pre-Christmas turkey shoplifting spree in Northern Ireland town

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Brazen: Joseph McCabe

Brazen: Joseph McCabe

Brazen: Joseph McCabe

A notorious rapist and his friend who went on a "brazen" pre-Christmas turkey shoplifting spree have been handed jail sentences totalling 27 months.

Appearing at Craigavon Crown Court via video-link from prison, Joseph McCabe (36) and 29-year-old Brian Paul Ward entered guilty pleas to all charges against them.

In total McCabe, whose address was given as care of Maghaberry Prison, and Ward, from South Street in Portadown, were jointly accused of four counts of theft relating to £231 of Christmas decorations from The Range, four turkeys from Iceland, and a lamb from Tesco.

McCabe faced three further offences of stealing turkeys from Iceland and attempting to steal razors from Iceland, while Ward faced a further eight counts of theft and two of attempted theft.

Those charges relate to a total of seven turkeys; £140 of Yankee candles; groceries; £181 of Christmas decorations; aftershave worth £92, and razors, with all of the offences committed on various dates between October 30 and December 16 last year.

Prosecuting counsel Ian Tannahill told the court that, between them, McCabe and Ward had either stolen or tried to steal £464 worth of turkeys.

Describing the series of offences across the Portadown shops as a "planned, repeated and brazen" operation, conducted both separately and "as a team", he outlined how in the majority of the incidents they walked into the respective stores, filled up a trolley and simply walked out having spent less than a minute on the premises.

Mr Tannahill told Judge Patrick Lynch QC that, given the nature of the thefts which occurred in the "busy pre-Christmas period... it appears quite clear, and indeed Mr Ward indicated at interview, that things were stolen to be sold in local pubs, so it was Christmas-market driven".

He submitted that as well as the pair's significant and extensive records being aggravating factors, Ward had been handed a suspended jail term a few days before the spree began, and was arrested and freed on police bail halfway through the offences.

McCabe, revealed the lawyer, had a conviction for serious sexual assault, as well numerous dishonesty convictions.

On February 1, 2005 McCabe and another man broke into the home of a 64-year-old woman and subjected her to what a judge described as a "terrifying prolonged ordeal" and a "violent sexual offence carried out with significant gratuitous violence".

Released from jail in April 2013 having served half his 14-year sentence, McCabe and another convict went on the run to Co Donegal, but later handed themselves in.

In March 2017 McCabe's prison licence, which ran until February this year, was suspended for a year after the court heard that the convicted rapist had been "under the influence" of drugs every single day he had been freed from prison following an earlier breach of his Sexual Offences Prevention Order and licence.

In court yesterday McCabe's defence counsel Sean Doherty said that conviction had left him "entirely alienated from his family" but that "surprisingly, he is currently drug-free".

Handing McCabe a 10-month sentence and Ward 17 months, by activating the earlier suspended sentence, Judge Lynch ordered the pair to spend half their sentence in jail and half on licence.

Belfast Telegraph