A woman who was previously ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service in a Cancer Research shop has appeared in court accused of stealing from the charity.
Before releasing Deidre McKeown on bail the judge said that if the allegation proved true, she’d have committed an act of “suicidal stupidity.”
The 53-year-old from Ashborne Manor in Ballymena appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Friday.
During a bail application, the court heard she’d been arrested on suspicion of stealing a red Coco Chanel-branded handbag from the charity shop in Ballymena’s town centre on Wednesday November 7.
A police constable said the bag had been advertised on the shop’s Facebook page but when a customer came into enquire, it could not be located.
A staff member later claimed she’d seen McKeown “surreptitiously” place it in her own bag the previous day.
The witness had not reported the matter because she’d assumed McKeown had paid for it.
Under questioning from a defence lawyer, the officer acknowledged the missing bag had not been found in the defendant’s possession.
“We are unsure about the bag’s location at present,” he said.
The defence lawyer said his client denied the offence and believed she was being “harassed and scapegoated” by police.
He added: “This was a low volume item. If she’d wished to have the bag she would have bought it.”
District judge Peter King said it was not the purpose of the court on Friday to assess the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
He added: “This is either a monumental misunderstanding or an act of suicidal stupidity.”
The defendant was released on bail.
He also ordered McKeown not to enter any retail premises in Northern Ireland.
The accused is due to appear again, this time before Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday, November 15.