Moment worlds of “dine and dash” couples tucking into meals without paying collapsed

They ate T-bone steaks, feasted on Chinese takeout and feasted on three-course banquets. Their bills totaled more than £1,000.

But Bernard and Ann McDonagh had no intention of paying. After the couple’s latest “dine and dash” explosion, the community clocked in on what was going on.

It was the evening of April 19 that the McDonaghs’ simple but successful plan came to the attention of Italian restaurant Bella Ciao. The company had only opened its doors in Swansea earlier that month, Wales Online reports.

READ MORE: ‘I had only spoken to her a few days earlier. When I got the call I just screamed

A large group racked up a bill for £329 after “completely going ahead with their order”. Upon paying the bill, members of the group left the restaurant, while one woman stayed behind to pay.

She tried to pay the bill twice with a savings account but was unsuccessful and was denied. She told staff she was leaving a young member of the party in the restaurant while she ran to the car to get her other bank card to pay the large bill.

However, she did not return and the youngster then received a phone call and said words to the effect of “oh no! I’ll be there now” before walking away. By sharing an image and appealing for information on social media, Bella Ciao set off a chain of events in which the local community came forward and helped identify those involved, while other restaurants claimed they too had been stabbed by two people from same group. .

The CCTV footage of Bernard McDonagh, 41, and his wife Ann McDonagh, 39, at Bella Ciao went viral, and just over a month later they appeared before a judge at Swansea Crown Court to be sentenced for fraud. It turned out the McDonaghs, from Sandfields, Port Talbot, had pulled the same trick again and again.

The moment Bernard McDonagh was arrested by police for dine and dash offences

The moment Bernard McDonagh was arrested by police for dine and dash offences

At Bella Ciao, the table was reserved under the name ‘Lucy Logan’ and the group arrived at the restaurant and ordered a three-course meal for everyone in the party. They also failed to pay a £267 bill at River House in Swansea in August last year, and in the space of just four months this year, as well as the Bella Ciao incident, left without paying £267.60 for a bill at La Casona in Skewen in February, while a bill of £196 also went unpaid at Isabella’s in Porthcawl in March.

In January, a Chinese takeaway costing a total of £99.40 was ordered from Golden Fortune in Port Talbot and delivered to the couple’s address. After the food was delivered, the door was abruptly closed in the delivery person’s face and attempts to obtain payment and get them to reopen the door were ignored.

Ann McDonagh arrested by policeAnn McDonagh arrested by police

Bernard McDonagh’s photo was posted on social media -Credit: PA

The five incidents added up to a total of more than £1,150 in unpaid food and drink bills. Speaking to WalesOnline after the hearing, business owners described their shock and dismay at the deception.

Manager at Las Casona, Kinga Szczesniak, said she couldn’t believe such “innocent-looking” customers could do something like this. She said: “All the staff I spoke to said they never thought they would walk away. They seemed super nice, they had an old man with a walking stick, so they looked absolutely innocent.

The moment the 'dine and dash' crimes overtook Ann McDonagh - Credit: South Wales PoliceThe moment the 'dine and dash' crimes overtook Ann McDonagh - Credit: South Wales Police

The moment the ‘dine and dash’ crimes overtook Ann McDonagh – Credit: South Wales Police

“When they went to pay they went out of the restaurant area so only two people came to pay. That’s when I knew they were going to run. A lady tried her card and it was declined, she said she was going to her car to get another card i asked the [other person] if they could stay [to make sure she came back to pay] five seconds later they were running after her. The bill came to about £270, which was huge.”

Before the incident, which happened on Feb. 24, she said the restaurant’s staff felt they could trust customers because nothing like this had ever happened before. But they are now anxious and constantly keep an eye on things.

Bernard McDonagh is led away by the police after his arrestBernard McDonagh is led away by the police after his arrest

Ann McDonagh’s image posted to social media -Credit: PA

“I would say we are more careful now,” she said. “We are constantly checking on customers to make sure they pay. About a week later we were even too scared to let customers go out for a drink or a cigarette because we weren’t sure if they would come back. That used to be normal.”

A Golden Fortune employee called Shirley told WalesOnline that the impact on the business was “appalling”, and that this happened at a time when so many are struggling with the cost of living crisis. She said: “It’s terrible. It’s already difficult because everything is so expensive. It’s a struggle for everyone, not just our company.”

Ann and Bernard McDonagh arrive at Swansea Crown CourtAnn and Bernard McDonagh arrive at Swansea Crown Court

Bernard McDonagh is led away by the police after his arrest. Credit: South Wales Police

‘It means the company was already worse off [financially] and this incident meant we didn’t have that much money left to pay our bills.” She added: “I’m glad they’re going to jail. I hope everyone will see this and think before they do bad things. We don’t want this to happen again to other companies.”

It appears that the pattern of deception for the McDonaghs was no more complicated than ordering enormous quantities of food and drinks for them and the rest of the group they were dining with, although not all of it was actually consumed. Sometimes they ordered meals and desserts and left large portions of them uneaten.

Then an attempt to pay by card upon receiving the bill always failed before asking staff where the nearest ATM was or if it would be okay if they got “another card” from a vehicle nearby was parked. Their dine and dash crimes were certainly not the couple’s first run-in with the law.

Bernard McDonagh has 27 previous convictions for 40 offences, including driving, affray, public disorder, violence, criminal damage and possession of controlled drugs. He has 23 different aliases registered on the police national computer and eight different dates of birth.

Ann McDonagh now has 18 previous convictions for 36 offences, including 24 thefts and shopliftings, as well as fraudulent use of a number plate, obstructing a police officer and fraud by false representation. The 39-year-old has 20 different aliases recorded on the police national computer, along with 10 different dates of birth.

After being left with more than £300 out of pocket in April, Bella Ciao posted on social media: “To the family who left the restaurant tonight without paying their £329 bill – shame on you!! We couldn’t contact you because the number you used to make the reservation was fake.”

Bernard McDonagh and Ann McDonagh are jailedBernard McDonagh and Ann McDonagh have been jailed

Ann and Bernard McDonagh arrive at Swansea Crown Court. Credit: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire

“To do this to someone is disgusting, but to do this to a newly opened restaurant is even worse!” The restaurant’s manager, Tyrone Reese, told the Mirror after the incident: “They ordered the most expensive things on the menu, like T-bone steaks and things like that. My wife said ‘something is wrong’. their order, but they also sent plates that were half empty.”

One of the other affected restaurants – La Casona in Skewen – was the victim of an almost identical act. The restaurant said: “After the meal, four people have already left our restaurant. One lady… stayed to ‘pay’. The woman tried to pay with a card which was declined.”

“She said she was going to get another card from the car.” They said another member of the party stayed behind as she left, but “ten seconds later” they ran to the car.

On Wednesday (May 29), the couple appeared at Swansea Crown Court after both previously pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud. Ann McDonagh had also previously pleaded guilty to three counts of theft by shoplifting. Bernard McDonagh was jailed for eight months, while Ann McDonagh was jailed for 12 months.

Addressing the couple in court, Judge Paul Thomas KC said: ‘Over a period of approximately eight months the two of you deliberately pursued a course of sustained dishonesty. You were served hundreds of pounds worth of food and drink and then cynically and shamelessly left without paying.

“You ordered the most expensive items on the menu with the full knowledge that you wouldn’t pay for them. You, Ann McDonagh, pretended your card didn’t work under the pretense that you would get cash.’

With justice finally catching up with them, the McDonaghs were ordered to pay damages totaling £2,185 – a combination of the restaurant bills they had failed to pay and the value of items stolen by Ann McDonagh in separate incidents – within seven days. Senting them to prison, Judge Thomas KC told the couple that their dinner was not carried out with the intention of feeding their family and the group they were dining with, but rather that it was a case of “crime for crime’s sake”, adding added, “You both had an idea you could get away with.”

Leave a Comment