Like father, like son: Gambler who stole $1.4m from dead relative blames his underworld father

A gambler jailed for stealing $1.4 million from a dead relative has claimed he was fulfilling a lifelong fantasy by following his father into the murky world of organised crime.

Edward “Eddie” James Quirke, 41, was jailed for four-and-a-half years after looting the bank accounts of his late father-in-law.

But in a stunning twist, Quirke is now blaming his devious exploits on his own father, and using a childhood exposed to crime to try and slash his time behind bars.

Quirke’s lawyer today argued during an appeal against his sentence at the High Court in Christchurch that he grew up “in awe” of his father and his shady associates.

Quirke “glorified” his dad’s behaviour, defence counsel Donald Matthews said, and wanted to emulate him.

“His exposure to criminality from a young age clearly influenced him and stuck with him,” Matthews said.

The dark influences stayed with him until the opportunity arose when his father-in-law died in August 2016 and he was able to “live out his fantasies” and steal $1.4m.

Robin Milligan, was a joint director with his wife, Shirley Milligan, of the Milligan’s Radio (1972) Ltd business.

When he died, the sole executor and beneficiary of his estate was Claire Elizabeth Quirke.

She was tasked to help with making certain payments from her dead father’s bank accounts of a day-to-day nature.

But she allowed her husband Eddie to take over the handling of the funds.

The summary of facts showed that on August 1, 2016, Eddie Quirke logged into his father-in-law’s Milligan’s Radio Ltd bank account without authorisation and transferred $3000 into his own personal bank account.

That was the same day his father-in-law had died.

Three days later, another $3000 was transferred by Quirke into his bank account.

Between August 12 and September 13, 2016, Eddie Quirke accessed his dead father-in-law’s business bank account on 10 more occasions and withdrew a total of $34,000.

The total amount taken out of the Milligan’s Radio account by Eddie Quirke was $40,000.

A further $12,600 was withdrawn from Robin Milligan’s personal account by his son-in-law.

“Between 20 September 2016 and 14 December 2017, Mr Quirke accessed another (BNZ) bank account in the name of Robin B Milligan on 76 occasions, withdrawing a total amount of $1,340,900,” the summary of facts says.

Shirley Milligan would only find out about the offending two years later in January, 2018.

She reported the matter to police.

Police investigations found that more than $560,000 was spent on gambling by Eddie Quirke, about the same amount on money transfers, more than $128,000 on assets and just over $121,000 in ATM withdrawals.

Claire Quirke’s personal bank account also received money transferred from her father’s accounts.

The couple declined to make a statement to police when they were arrested.

When he was sentenced last September, Eddie Quirke’s then lawyer said a significant amount of the stolen money had gone on online gambling.

He pleaded guilty to four charges of theft and four charges of accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes.

Judge Tom Gilbert said Eddie Quirke’s pre-sentence report was “not particularly positive” and didn’t include much remorse or awareness of the impact his offending has had.

He jailed him for four-and-a-half years and ordered him to pay $30,000 in reparations – by way of selling six vehicles he owned, including an Audi, Ford Ranger ute, and Jaguar XJ which needed repairs.

Claire Quirke’s lawyer described it as a “tragic” set of circumstances where she ended up in court facing one charge of theft by a person in a special relationship.

While she doesn’t blame her husband entirely, it was clear that he was more to blame, the court heard.

Claire Quirke was sentenced to eight months of home detention and also ordered to pay $30,000 reparation.

Now, Eddie Quirke has launched an appeal against his sentence, with his lawyer Matthews arguing it was manifestly excessive.

A psychological report provided to the court outlined Quirke’s fantasies in being involved in high-end crime, noting that he had “effectively glorified” his father’s criminal behaviour.

While Matthews stressed it could not be said his background caused his offending, it should be taken into account.

The lawyer also argued the offending was not very sophisticated and was over a shorter period of time than other cases the Crown had referred to.

But Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said the offending only stopped because Quirke was found out “and the money had essentially run out”.

Hawes rejected Quirke’s claims that his upbringing should be taken into account, pointing to the psychological report which noted his crimes were “deliberate and calculated” and allowed him to fulfil his “aspirational wants”.

The Crown lawyer also noted that Quirke was well into his 30s when the crimes were committed, and “a long way from childhood”. He also said Quirke had shown zero remorse and a lack of insight into his offending., involving a serious breach of trust.

Justice David Gendall reserved his decision.

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