Dine-and-dash couple jailed and fined

A couple who dined and dashed at five restaurants using their children to walk out on bills of more than £1,000 have been jailed.

CCTV of Bernard McDonagh, 41, and his wife Ann McDonagh, 39, eating meals and failing to pay for them at a Swansea restaurant went viral last month.

The couple, from Sandfields, Port Talbot, pleaded guilty to failing to pay restaurant bills between August 2023 and April 2024 at Swansea Magistrates' Court earlier this month.

Ann McDonagh, who also admitted thefts from two supermarkets obstructing or resisting a police officer, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, while her husband was given eight months.

They will serve half their sentences, and will pay a total of £2185.70 in compensation, £1,168 for their unpaid restaurant bills and £1,017 for items stolen from shops.

Judge Paul Thomas KC said that the dine and dash incidents were "carefully pre-planned to a specific pattern," and that they used their children "to run away".

"You each got a buzz out of what you could get away with on a regular basis."

Newly-opened Bella Ciao, in Swansea, was one of the restaurants targeted by the fraudsters last month.

The owners said the family ordered T-bone steaks and double pudding portions, then left without paying their £329 bill.

The other counts related to meals at Isabella's in Porthcawl, River House in Swansea Docks, Golden Fortune in Port Talbot and La Casona in Skewen.

The court heard how Ann McDonagh stole hundreds of pounds worth of household items and clothes from stores.

She twice stole from a Tommy Hilfiger store in Bridgend, which amounted to a total of nearly £500, hiding clothes within her gilet jacket.

The court also heard how she had lied about being nine-months pregnant whilst in custody in March resulting in her release.

A list of previous historical offences – which included many theft convictions by both defendants – were read out by the prosecution.

It was pointed out by judge Paul Thomas KC that Ann McDonagh had a higher number and more recent convictions.

Bernard McDonagh’s defence barrister Giles Hayes said he was "deeply embarrassed and ashamed".

"He has asked me to apologise in open court on behalf," he added.

Representing Ann McDonagh, Andrew Evans, admitted there was a "pattern" in offences over many years.

He suggested Mrs McDonagh did not offend "for financial gain" but to "improve the position of her family".

Judge Thomas concluded: "Over a period of around eight months, you two set out on a deliberate course of sustained dishonesty.

"You would go into restaurants with your young family, you would have food and drink served to you, on the value of hundreds of pounds, then you would cynically leave without paying."

He said they would order the most expensive items on the menu, even for their children.

He said Ann McDonagh was "a fluent and practised liar".

"Exploiting your own children… you'd obviously coached them in advance to run away," he added.

A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The thefts committed by the McDonagh’s have had a devastating impact on local family run restaurants."

Speaking on Wednesday, co-owner of Bella Ciao restaurant, Tyrone Rees, said the family felt vulnerable after the incident.

"It’s like someone coming down the street, taking £300 from your wallet, and walking away with it," he said.

"That's my family, my children, my grandchildren’s money.

"You just want the people to know that they can’t get away with that."

Sam Vellanchola from the River House restaurant said he was "extremely pleased to hear that the justice has finally caught up with the couple".