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Thursday 28 August 2014

Dad-of-two accused of cracking priest's skull during robbery

Andrew Phelan

Published 18/10/2013 | 05:00

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A JOBLESS father-of-two has been accused of attacking a priest during a break-in, leaving him with a fractured skull and bleeding to his brain.

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Shane Cooney (23) was refused bail at Dublin District Court after he was charged with seriously assaulting Fr Diarmuid Byrne (69) at the priest's house in Dublin.

Fr Byrne was discovered lying on the floor in the early hours of Wednesday morning and was rushed to St James's Hospital, where he was being treated last night. Judge Cormac Dunne remanded Mr Cooney in custody after the court was told the accused was alleged to have been found near the scene with Fr Byrne's blood on his clothes.

The accused, with an address at Lismore Road, Crumlin, Dublin, is charged with burglary and assault causing harm at St Anthony's Road, Rialto, on October 16.

Detective Sgt Brian Hoey told the court that Mr Cooney made no reply to either charge after he was cautioned at Kilmainham garda station. Det Sgt Hoey also objecting to bail.

It was alleged that Mr Cooney attacked Fr Byrne, pushing him back into his bedroom and assaulting him on the ground.

Fr Byrne was later taken to St James's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured skull and bleeding on his brain. He received 26 stitches to the wound.

Asked by Judge Dunne how the assault was alleged to have been carried out, Det Sgt Hoey said gardai were unsure if any weapon was used.

BLOOD

The court heard the accused was arrested shortly afterwards close to the scene. It was discovered that the suspect's tracksuit bottoms and runners had blood on them and these were seized.

A footprint was also found at the scene which was very similar in pattern to the sole of the accused's runners, Sgt Hoey said. The prosecution case would be that forensic and DNA tests carried out on blood found on the accused's clothing matched Fr Byrne's blood.

The defendant is unemployed and Sgt Hoey believed he would offend if granted bail. The court heard the maximum sentence on conviction for burglary was 14 years and five years for the assault charge.

Applying for bail, defence solicitor Michael Kelleher said the accused had not been arrested at the scene, there were no eyewitnesses placing him there and he had made no admissions in custody.

Mr Kelleher said the details of the forensic tests were hearsay evidence. Sgt Hoey said a garda forensic witness was not available to come to court.

Judge Dunne, however, commended the gardai on their speed in obtaining the DNA results. He said it was a "clear case" for the refusal of bail and remanded the accused in custody, to appear in Cloverhill District Court on October 23.

Cooney, wearing a wine-coloured Ralph Lauren top and black tracksuit bottoms, did not address the court during the hearing.

Irish Independent

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