Couple who dined at expensive restaurants and left without paying are locked up

Ann and Bernard McDonagh
-Credit: (Image: South Wales Police)

A couple whose "dine and dash" spree cost businesses more than £1,000 in food and drink have been locked up. Bernard McDonagh, 41, and his wife Ann, 39, ordered expensive menu items but left restaurants footing the bill.

The couple were told their actions had put the livelihoods of business owners in jeopardy with eateries already struggling financially. In total, the couple took £1,168 worth of items from restaurants, reports MirrorOnline.

The defendants had admitted five counts of fraud when they appeared before magistrates on May 8. An advocate for father-of-six McDonagh said he was "deeply embarrassed and ashamed".

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The defendant had arrived at court with cash to pay everything back. Judge Paul Thomas KC said, from everything he had read, that he was satisfied it was Ann McDonagh who played a leading role in the restaurant frauds and labelled her a "fluent and practised liar".

The total value of the items stolen from the shops by Ann McDonagh was £1,017. Bernard McDonagh was sentenced to eight months and Ann was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The court heard Ann also admitted to four counts of theft by shoplifting and that these related to Tommy Hilfiger clothing worth £500 that she didn't pay for at Bridgend Designer Outlet on February 3 and February 17 this year. 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. Ann McDonagh also lied to police while in custody saying she was nine months pregnant and demanded to be released. However, she was not pregnant.

Footage went viral online shortly after the couple, part of a party of eight, left the Bella Ciao Italian restaurant in Swansea without paying their £329 bill. The family scoffed pricey T-bone steaks and guzzled down 15 bottles of pop before they ran out on the bill.

The court heard the couple booked the table under the fake name 'Lucy Logan'. When it came to pay for the bill, Ann McDonagh made an unsuccessful attempt to pay by card and told staff she would get cash from their vehicle. Another member of the group stayed behind but got a phone call and ran out saying '"Oh! I'll be there now".

Andrew Evans, for Ann McDonagh, said the motivation for the defendant’s offending history was not clear, and even an experienced probation officer had been unable to get to the root cause. He said while the couple had ordered the most expensive steaks and desserts on the restaurant menus the reality was much of the food was uneaten. The advocate says it might be that in going to the establishments she would not usually go to and ordering food she would not usually order his client had been trying to make herself feel better in some way.

Manager Tyrone Reese previously told The Mirror they sent plates back half-eaten before devouring double deserts. He added: "My wife said 'something's not right.' They went full-on with their order but they were also sending plates back half empty."

But the brazen incident sparked ire online, with a video of the dine and dash attracting more than 12 million views in just a few hours. The widespread sharing of the footage led other restaurants in Wales to reveal they had also been exploited by the couple.

On January 31 this year, the couple ordered a £100 Chinese takeaway meal from the Golden Fortune in Taiback, Port Talbot, which they refused to pay. WalesOnline reported, after the food was handed over, they closed the door and no payment was made.

La Carsona, near Neath, said it had been left to cover extensive costs after the couple ducked out on paying a bill worth £300. In a post previously shared on X, formerly Twitter, the restaurant said: "On February 23, six people visited our restaurant and left without paying almost £300. All restaurants reported it to the police, will we get any response? Will justice be served? We don't think so..."

The post went on: "Our story: After the meal, four people have already left the 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 her 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. We called the police as soon as it happened."

The Yard, in Cowbridge, shared how a similar dine and dash happened at its restaurant where a bill of about £150 was left unpaid. The restaurant wrote online: "Honestly so gutted and can't believe people can have the heart to do this... The whole thing was very well planned out, they must do it often.

"Just don't understand how people can do this to a hard working, struggling independent business. This is her supposedly going to get us cash out from the cashpoint after her card declined three times."

Last August the duo struck at the River House who shared CCTV on its social media page. Owners said: "This was obviously carefully planned as they all just disappeared."