Moment 'Britain's worst dine-and-dash couple' arrested by police after racking up nearly £1,200 in unpaid food bills

30 May 2024, 10:21 | Updated: 30 May 2024, 10:26

Bernard, 41, and Ann McDonagh, 39, both of Sandfields, Port Talbot
Bernard, 41, and Ann McDonagh, 39, both of Sandfields, Port Talbot. Picture: South Wales Police

By Christian Oliver

Dramatic footage has shown the moment police arrested two 'dine and dash' offenders who racked up massive bills for food and drink and failed to pay at five different restaurants.

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Bernard, 41, and Ann McDonagh, 39, both of Sandfields, Port Talbot, ordered three-course meals for themselves and their family including T-bone steaks and desserts - even sending some of the food back uneaten.

The married couple used more than 40 aliases with 18 different dates of birth, dishonestly obtained food and drink at four restaurants and one takeaway in the south Wales, the court heard.

The pair racked up unpaid bills totalling £1,168.10 before images of them and their scam were posted on social media.

They were each arrested at their home in South Wales and each pleaded guilty to five joint charges of fraud.

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

Couple jailed after non-payment of restaurant bills and shoplifting

Ann McDonagh
Ann McDonagh. Picture: South Wales Police
Bernard McDonagh
Bernard McDonagh. Picture: South Wales Police

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Read More: Britain’s worst dine and dash couple jailed for dodging £1,000 in restaurant bills after antics were exposed on CCTV

Ann McDonagh was sentenced to 12 months in prison and Bernard McDonagh to eight months at Swansea Crown Court on Wednesday.

Judge Paul Thomas said the pair's actions could have been motivated by "pure and utter greed" as he accused them of setting out "on a deliberate course of sustained dishonesty".

"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, who would then run off, while pretending to go to a cashpoint was "ruthlessly exploitative".

He added: "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.

"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.

Prosecuting, Alycia Carpanini told the court how the couple went to the River House in Swansea with three children in August last year where they "dined at the location and ordered a large amount of food."

Ms Carpanini said: "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."

Couple due to be sentenced after dining and dashing at restaurants in South Wales

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

The family also ordered a Chinese takeaway costing £99.40 from Golden Fortune in Port Talbot to their home address in January. Ms Carpanini said the meal was handed over before the family closed the door on the delivery driver's face and did not pay for it.

In February Ann McDonagh stole six polo shirts and one pair of chinos worth £442 from the Tommy Hilfiger store at Bridgend Designer Outlet by hiding them in her gilet jacket. She returned later that month and was seen breaking security tags off items before trying to conceal them, making off in a blue Ford Transit van with £49 of goods.

Later that month the couple and four children went to the La Casona restaurant in Skewen where they ordered three course meals with sides, worth £276.60, before leaving without paying. Ann McDonagh also shoplifted from Sainsburys in Bridgend, taking clothing and other items worth £400.

She was arrested for separate offences - which were not proceeded with - on March 13 and taken to Bridgwater custody suite for interview.

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."

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

In March the couple went to Isabella's in Porthcawl and ordered £196 of food and drink. Ann McDonagh tried to pay with a card that was declined three times. She told staff she would go to a cashpoint and left a child at the restaurant. They ran out 10 minutes later, with the family seen leaving in a white vehicle.

In April the couple along with five others went to Bella Ciao in Swansea having pre-booked a table under the name Lucy Logan. Ann McDonagh attempted to pay the £329.10 bill with a card that was declined, and told staff she would get money from a cashpoint - 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."

In a victim personal statement, Giovan Cangelosi, of Bella Ciao, told how he feared for the security of his restaurant after putting images and details of the fraud online.

Describing the impact of the theft, he said: "I felt like I had not protected my restaurant and had failed as an owner."

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

He described father-of-six McDonagh as "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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