The last time Marie Conlon’s neighbors remembered seeing her was sometime in January 2015, but no one was entirely sure. In late October 2017, police officers forced their way into her apartment in Belfast, Northern Ireland and found the 68-year-old’s remains. Conlon was not married and had no children, and it seems that no one noticed that she had died more than two years earlier—no one, except for Robert Sharkey.
According to Belfast Live, Sharkey is accused of breaking into Conlon’s home, stealing her bank cards, and using them to buy food and pay his bills. The 24-year-old is also accused of failing to report her death—”preventing [her] burial,” in legal terms—for a period stretching from August 2015 until she was discovered last October.
During his appearance in Belfast Crown Court earlier this week, Conlon pleaded guilty to breaking in and stealing batteries, a coffee mug, £50 ($65) cash, and her debit card. He also acknowledged that, yes, he knew that she was dead.
Sharkey reportedly used Conlon’s debit card to order £5,988.39 ($7,823) worth of Domino’s pizza, to buy £3,279.80 ($4,284) worth of food at the Sainsbury’s supermarket, to buy £1,030 ($1,345) worth of credit for his cell phone, and to pay his £285 ($372) power bill. The only allegation he denied was stealing a second debit card.
The presiding judge, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC, asked for additional time to consider Sharkey’s denial of the second theft, as well as to decide whether the court would prosecute him for breaking and entering, in addition to the other charges against him. He was ordered to return to court on September 24.
“It's very sad a person has ended their days in this nature and I know the family have been quite distressed by it all," Sinn Fein representative Alex Maskey said at the time Conlon’s body was discovered. “I'm told she led a very quiet, private life over the last number of years, which obviously has contributed to the fact she's lain so long.”
A memorial mass was held for Conlon at St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Belfast last October 19. She was buried at Milltown Cemetery the same day.