Two brothers, who defrauded a 71-year-old Co Galway widow of almost €400,000 have been jailed for what a judge described as ‘one of the meanest and most miserable series of crimes he had ever come across’.

42-year-old Conor Murphy, from Castle Park, Galway, and 46-year-old James Murphy, of Ballydesmond, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court in Galway to defrauding Mary Ellen Walsh, from Craughwell, Co Galway, of the money.

The court was told Mrs Walsh believed she had met 'two angels from heaven' when she met the brothers; she was a religious person and they brought her religious objects.

Conor Murphy also told her he was a visionary and that he had seen visions of her dead brother.

However, over an 11-month period in 2006 and 2007 they convinced her to hand over cheques and make cash withdrawals from ATMs to the value of almost €400,000.

Conor Murphy had cheques worth €367,000 drawn in his favour; James Murphy received €23,900 in cheques and there were also 36 ATM cash withdrawals.

Mrs Walsh now believed she had lost almost everything and this was 'a cross she would have to carry for the rest of her life'.

Judge Raymond Groarke sentenced Conor Murphy to five years in jail and his brother James to two years.

He said they had targeted an 'elderly vulnerable woman', 'inveigled her out of her money' and had now left her 'almost destitute'.

It was one of the meanest and most miserable series of crimes he had ever come across, he said.