Couple targeted restaurants for expensive meals then left without paying

A couple who repeatedly visited restaurants and racked up huge bills before leaving without paying have admitted a string of offences.

Bernard and Ann McDonagh left restaurants and other businesses out of pocket to the tune of more than £2,000 through their actions, a court heard.

The husband and wife entered guilty pleas to five counts of fraud when they appeared at Swansea Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

A judge heard how they obtained food and drink for themselves and their family at a number of restaurants in south Wales on different occasions and left without paying their bills.

Bernard McDonagh attempted to hide his face as he left Swansea Magistrates' Court. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The court heard the couple attended Bella Ciao restaurant in Castle Street in Swansea on April 19 this year. There they obtained food and drink for themselves and their family to the value of £329.10 with “no intention of paying for it.”

They also failed to pay a £196 bill at Isabella’s restaurant in Well Street, Porthcawl, on March 27, a £267 bill at River House restaurant in Kings Road, Swansea, on August 9, 2023, a £99.40 bill at Golden Fortune, Port Talbot, on January 31, 2024, and a £267.60 bill at La Casona restaurant in Skewen on February 24, 2024.

In addition 39-year-old Ann McDonagh admitted four counts of theft by shoplifting. These related to obtaining clothing she didn’t pay for at the Tommy Hilfiger shop at Bridgend Designer Outlet to the value of £442 on February 3, 2024, and to the value of £49 on February 17, 2024.

Ann McDonagh used an envelope in an attempt to hide her face. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

She also pleaded guilty to obtaining household items from a Tesco Extra store in Swansea to the value of £426.60 and leaving without paying on September 6, 2023, and obtaining items from Sainsbury’s at Bridgend Designer Outlet to the value of £400 and leaving without paying on February 25, 2024.

Ann McDonagh also pleaded guilty to obstructing a police officer in the course of their duty at Queen’s Road Police Station in Bridgend in February 2024.

The court heard the main aggravating factor in the case was the “presence of children” when multiple offences were carried out and that 41-year-old Bernard McDonagh had antecedent history.

District Judge Chris James committed the proceedings to Swansea Crown Court for sentencing on May 29. He granted both defendants unconditional bail and requested a pre-sentencing report was made for each of them.

The couple’s actions came to light after they targeted newly-opened Bella Ciao in Swansea’s Castle Street in April and fled without paying a bill of more than £329. In the aftermath of the incident manager Tyrone Reese said: “They were ordering the most expensive things on the menu like T-bone steaks and the like.”

After Bella Ciao shared a picture of the group who came to the restaurant on their social media page several other restaurants came forward and reported similar incidents. La Casona, in Skewen, were left almost £300 down.

A restaurant spokesman said: “After the meal four people have already left our restaurant. One lady stayed with a young boy to ‘pay’. The woman tried to pay with a card which was declined. She said she would get another card from the car. We asked the boy to stay and wait for her in the restaurant. She left and 10 seconds after the boy started to run to the car.”

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