A CARE worker who stole a retired boxer’s prized Olympic medal has been sentenced to community service.
And victim John McNulty said: “I feel sorry for him.”
Eighty-year-old John was reunited with his silver medal after public appeals.
He was the first Irish boxer to win an Olympic medal, at the 1952 Helsinki Summer games.
Graham Thompson, from Ardenlee Avenue in east Belfast, appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday for sentencing.
The 31-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to stealing the medal from Mr McNally’s residential home in the south of the city.
Thompson was working as a care assistant when he stole the item.
His defence solicitor told the court Thompson sold the medal to Cash Converters for £50, not appreciating the medal’s significance.
On hearing the media appeals, his conscience was pricked and he went back to the shop.
He bought the medal back for £65 and returned it to UTV television studios at Havelock House anonymously.
Judge Fiona Bagnall said the theft was from a vulnerable victim, the item was unique and of such sentimental value that it was hard to imagine something more precious to its owner.
She added that it was Thompson’s subsequent actions and his plea from the outset which allowed her to take the view that he should not serve a custodial sentence, and ordered him to 240 hours community service.
Following the sentence, Mr McNally said that he and his family were “relieved the whole thing was over”.
“He should never have done what he done. I’m terribly sorry for him for being so stupid,” he said.
“Everybody knows that medal, everybody in this country knows about it.”
“For me to get that silver medal was unbelievable, sometimes I still can’t believe it myself.”
Mr McNally said the medal is now stored in a secure location.
He added: “That medal’s staying in the family.”