Tuesday 22 August 2017

Man jailed for 'brutal, unprovoked and shocking' attack and sexual assault on elderly neighbour

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Sonya McLean

A LIMERICK man who called gardaí and told them he had just tried to kill his elderly neighbour has been jailed for attacking and sexually assaulting the woman.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey said that the 51-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, carried out an unprovoked, brutal and shocking attack on the woman.

The man had called to the 66-year-old woman's home just after nine that evening for “no particular reason”. The separated mother-of-three lived alone in her home in county Cork.

He asked the woman if she would share the wine she was drinking with him. He then “suddenly switched temper, told her he could have her” and “clattered her”, Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting, told the court.

He put a cushion over her face, pulled down her pyjamas bottoms and sexually assaulted her.

A local detective inspector told Mr Gageby that gardaí were first alerted to the attack when the accused made a 999 call to his local garda station and said “I tried to kill her by putting a cushion over her head”.

Officers first called to his home and he told them the woman lived nearby. The woman was in a state of distress when gardaí arrived and she was taken to a nearby hospital for examination.

She later made a statement to gardaí saying she had no recollection of what happened after the man thumped her in the eye and put a cushion over her face.

A medical examination found that she had bruises on her jaw, neck, knee and thigh. There were also bruises on her upper inner thigh close to her genital area and she had cut to her vagina.

The man initially denied the charges. He pleaded guilty on the morning of his trial at the Central Criminal Court last April to assault causing harm but pleaded not guilty to raping the woman in her home on November 4, 2015.

Mr Justice Coffey reduced a headline sentence of six years to four-and-a-half years. He backdated the sentenced to last April, when the man went into custody.

He noted the man's guilty plea, which came after the victim's evidence in the trial last April, had spared her having to cross-examined. He also noted the man had expressed a deep and profound remorse for his actions and has apologised unreservedly to the victim.

The judge also noted the traumatic effect of the attack on the woman, saying that she went from being a people person to no longer feeling safe in her own home.

She cries every time she thinks about the attack, feels her home is now a crime scene and locks every door in the house before going to bed.

Mr Gageby read the woman's victim impact report in which she stated that her life has never been the same since the sexual assault.

“I have not walked up the road since it happened, before I would have walked around freely. I used to be so involved in my locality. I enjoyed meeting people,” the woman said.

She said she now gets a taxi everywhere and gets the driver to wait outside the shops for her.

“The chain is always on the door. It has stopped me being sociable. I used to be a people person. I lock every door in the house, including my own bedroom door,” the woman said.

She has to take medication to help her relax and she asked both her ex-husband and her adult children to phone in advance if they are calling over to her.

“I still cry when I think of it, especially since it happened in my own home,” the woman said before she thanked the gardaí and the staff who treated her in hospital.

The detective inspector said the man has four previous convictions for a serious assault, assault and theft.

Blaise O'Carroll SC, defending, told Mr Justice Coffey that his client wished to offer an unreserved apology to the injury he caused the victim.

He suggested that there would be no case if the man hadn't called the gardaí himself. Counsel said that he also confessed to his partner, who he had been living with at the time, and she later went to check on the woman to see how she was.

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