A 63-year-old man who drugged two elderly Co. Mayo women in their rural homes 12 years ago and raped another won't be barred from playing his weekly games of 25 at Castlebar Social Services Centre despite his appalling criminal record. John Hope, a bachelor, who lived originally in Bonniconlon, Ballina, but who now lives in Castlebar, was sentenced in 2000 to five years for rape and a further five years for the poison attacks.
He was released after serving just under seven years in prison and came to live in Castlebar where few, if any locals, seemed to be aware of his evil past.
However, Hope was 'outed' by a Sunday newspaper at the weekend. He abstained from his normal game of cards in the Social Services Centre on Sunday night.
According to Mr. P.J. Nally, chairman of the Social Services, Hope had not been asked to stay away from the card game and will not be asked to do so.
Mr. Nally continued: "Everybody is welcome at the Social Services Centre once they behave themselves. We don't sit in judgement."
The weekly card games are for elderly men and women and some observers feel Hope's presence at the sessions might be putting the women in a vulnerable position.
"When I read the details of what this man had did in the papers I certainly would not feel comfortable playing cards with him or being anywhere near him," one female card player, who wished to remain anonymous, said yesterday (Monday).
Within a few weeks in 1998, Hope poisoned two elderly female neighbours by deliberately giving them the drug Temazepam after mixing it with the contents of mineral bottles.
One woman was unconscious for two days and was found on the floor, not knowing how she had got there.
Hope had earlier been convicted of raping a woman after entering a house armed with a knife and a length of rope. He was arrested when he jumped naked through a window after gardaí were alerted by a phone call.
Sentencing the accused, Judge Kevin Haugh said he considered him a danger and a menace to society and in need of medical attention.
Star Sunday said Hope received no rehabilitation for his crimes and does not have to sign on to the sex offenders' register because his crimes predate the 2001 Act.