Saturday 19 August 2017

Man who launched 'vicious' knife attack on former partner is jailed

Rose Kenny (centre) is surrounded by family and friends as she leaves the Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts
Rose Kenny (centre) is surrounded by family and friends as she leaves the Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts

Alison O'Riordan

A 50-year-old man who launched a "vicious" knife attack on a woman he was in a relationship with 15 years previously has been jailed for 14 years.

Denis Leahy of Queen Street, Dublin 7 was charged with attempting to murder Rose Kenny at School Street Flats, Dublin 8 on September 23, 2014.

Leahy pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Rose Kenny after the case had opened to the jury at the Central Criminal Court on June 22.

He had previously pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to Ms Kenny at the same address on the same date.

Rose Kenny was attacked on the stairwell of her apartment complex on her way to work in a local creche. Her injuries included three stab wounds to her neck and three stab wounds to her chest. One of the stab wounds to her neck went through the front of her larynx.

Today Mr Justice Paul Butler sentenced Leahy to 14 years imprisonment and backdated it to September 23, 2014.

Denis Leahy
Denis Leahy

He said the victim impact statement given by Ms Kenny last week was “so moving” that he had to adjourn sentencing until today to consider all the matters carefully.

Mr Justice Butler also said that Ms Kenny was “obviously very popular” with the presence of all her peers in court.

He said the aggravating factors included the ferociousness of the attack and the injuries sustained to Ms Kenny.

“It was only thanks to the highly skillful medical intervention that Ms Kenny survived,” he said.

The judge said the attack by Leahy was premeditated and had been planned “for at least a day.”

He also said there was a “lack of remorse” shown by the accused and the court considered the offence to be at the higher end of the scale.

The judge said the mitigating factors included the fact that the accused had “no relevant previous convictions.”

“From an early stage he admitted the facts and at a late stage he entered a plea to count 1,” he said.

Upon handing down sentence Mr Justice Butler said: “The lowest sentence I can impose on this case is 14 years to date from September 23, 2014. I considered a suspension but there is no basis on which to do so."

The brother of Rose Kenny spoke on behalf of his sister outside court today regarding the sentence handed down.

Paul Kenny said: "On behalf of Rose we would like to thank our friends, family and the investigating team. Although we think no sentence would have been harsh enough, we are very pleased with the outcome and we now hope that Rose can get on with the rest of her life. Its a fairly stiff sentence but it's a terrible crime and we are glad the judge saw through everything."

Last week Ms Kenny delivered an emotional victim impact statement to the court.

Afterwards speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice the 51-year-old woman said the attack had “changed her completely.”

“I’ve had to leave the area I grew up and worked in. I tried to go back to work but I just wasn’t able for it. It has just completely changed my life and I don’t trust the world the way I used to,” she said.

“I don’t look anyone in the eye and say hello anymore, I look at their hands to see if they are carrying a weapon. I just don’t think it’s a nice world,” she said.

The court previously heard that on the morning of the attack Ms Kenny was going to work in a local family resource centre where she worked in a crèche.

She left her flat at 7.50am and came down the stairs to make the forty second journey to her place of employment when she saw a man reading a newspaper at the end of the stairs.

“I remember saying good morning and he just jumped up and attacked me but I never saw his face after that,” she said.

Ms Kenny never lost consciousness throughout the attack until she got to the hospital.

“My eyes were closed through the whole attack but I opened my eyes then and I never let them close again because if I closed my eyes then I would have died and I did not want to die,” she said.

Ms Kenny said she sustained “multiple injuries” and “lacerations” to her neck, abdomen, back, shoulder and arm.

Her "horrendous injuries" included three stab wounds to her neck and three stab wounds to her chest.

She said she was heavily medicated at the time so it was weeks before she realised how seriously she was hurt.

After the “vicious” attack her sister Jeanette and daughter Jamie were at the scene.

“They lived in the same complex and I asked people not to let Jeanette or Jamie see me like this but they came on the scene and I will never forget the screams by them,” she said.

The mother of one did not recognise Leahy throughout the assault even though she had shared many years with him as her partner.

“I never recognised him at all. When I was told it was him it was like being attacked all over again,” she said.

Ms Kenny said she has since had to live with the "guilt" of bringing this man into her life and every day she asks herself how could she "have been such a bad judge of character."

She had been in a relationship with the accused for approximately five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They had parted on reasonable terms but she had had no contact with Leahy for six years prior to the offence on September 23, 2014.

“I was dating him, I was his partner. I feel how could I judge somebody so badly. I feel I put my family’s lives at risk because of him,” she said

Ms Kenny also said that the morning Leahy attacked her, he attacked her entire family.

“He had holidayed with my whole family, my mother and father. He had been to weddings and christenings so when he attacked me he attacked my whole family,” she said

Ms Kenny returned to work at the local crèche in May 2015 but had to finish in April 2016.

“I went back to work and I tried but work involved answering phones and doing a lot of meeting and greeting and my voice got worse. I’m waiting for speech therapy and I hope to get back to work soon. I’m fine now, I have great support. I was broken but they are fixing me. I will be good,” she said.

Ms Kenny advised other victims of crime to listen to their friends and family and “be strong.”

She also said it “hurts more” that Leahy never expressed any remorse.

“He could have got word to me some way that he was sorry for what he had done but there was nothing, no remorse at all. I’m still hurting that somebody I loved at one time could do that to somebody,” she said.

The court previously heard that four months before the attack Leahy had returned to Ireland from Thailand and had been told by someone that Rose Kenny had informed gardai that drugs were in his house.

At the sentence hearing prosecuting counsel said that there was “no indication” from gardai that Rose Kenny had informed gardai about drugs being in his house "in any way."

Referring to this, Ms Kenny said this rumour “wasn’t true at all.”

Ms Kenny said she tries her best “not to think” about Leahy now.

“I want to get back to where I was. I was a very strong person and I will get back to being that person. I have great support and have brilliant friends and family. The whole of the Liberties was behind me and I had prayers from everybody. I had prayers from America where I have great friends. It was all the prayers and support that helped me get through this,” she said.

Last week Mr Patrick Marrinan SC, prosecuting, told the court that Denis Leahy had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Rose Kenny after the case had opened to the jury on June 22.

Mr Marrinan then called Detective Inspector Sean Campbell to take the stand.

The court heard that Ms Kenny was 49-years-old at the time of the attack and was living at School Street Flats in Dublin 8.

Det Insp Campbell agreed with the barrister that Ms Kenny was a single woman and had an 18-year-old daughter.

Ms Kenny worked in the local creche at School Street and had been in a relationship with the accused for approximately five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"According to Rose Kenny her relationship with the accused man was like any other and had its ups and downs but it had ended amicably," said Mr Marrinan.

Their relationship ended at a wedding in Rome after there had been an argument.

Counsel told the court that Ms Kenny had maintained some contact with Denis Leahy’s family after the split as well as being in contact with her former partner for a number of years.

Mr Marrinan explained that it was not until after they split up that Denis Leahy had travelled to Thailand and resided there.

“She had no contact with the accused man for six years prior to the offence on September 23, 2013,” he said.

On that day Ms Kenny left her flat at 7.50am and went to work in a crèche.

The court heard she made a call to her friend as she was walking down the stairs of the complex and left a voicemail for her.

As Ms Kenny reached the bottom of the stairs she saw a man reading a newspaper and said ‘good morning’ to him so he would move out of the way as he was blocking her path.

“This man who she didn’t recognise throughout the assault was Denis Leahy,” he said.

Mr Marrinan told the court: “He said to her that she had called the cops on him and he started to stab her repeatedly around the neck and body.”

The assault lasted for a few moments and Denis Leahy then made good his escape.

The accused dropped the knife at the scene and it was later retrieved by gardai.

Rose Kenny managed to “stumble for a few yards” and she then collapsed in the courtyard of the complex.

Neighbours came out to offer their assistance and she was then rushed to hospital.

Upon arrival at St James Hospital she was treated as an emergency patient on account on her multiple stabbings.

The court heard she had superficial lacerations to her left arm, a deep laceration to her left forearm and three stab wounds to her neck.

She also had three stab wounds to her chest including one stab wound which collapsed her lung.

One of the stab wounds to her neck went through the front of her larynx and there was a second penetrating injury to the right of her neck.

“The third stab injury went through the left of her neck and it was not as deep as the other two injuries. Extensive surgical repair had to be carried out to her larynx and pharynx," said Mr Marrinan.

The court heard she recovered well from her neck injuries but these were “extremely deep and life threatening injuries.”

Det Insp Campbell agreed with counsel that she was in intensive care for five weeks.

The gardai were alerted and a full investigation commenced.

Mr Marrinan told the court that the accused had been captured on CCTV footage in the area that morning and he had gone to Mountjoy Garda Station after the attack where he admitted to assaulting Rose Kenny.

Mr Leahy was then taken to Kevin Street Garda Station and during the course of his detention there he was interviewed on a number of occasions by gardai.

“The net effect of what he had to say was that he been in a relationship with Rose Kenny some ten years prior to this attack but he had left and gone to Thailand where he had lived. He had been in contact with Rose Kenny via email until seven years prior to the offence,” said Mr Marrinan.

The court heard that four months before the attack Mr Leahy had returned to Ireland and had been told by someone that Rose Kenny had informed gardai that drugs were in his house.

“He says this was the reason why he left Ireland for Thailand and he had suffered some financial problems. He indicated he discovered this four months beforehand and decided to get revenge against Rose Kenny. That is the sole basis that he indicated to gardai why he carried out the attack,” said counsel.

The court heard Denis Leahy did not take drink or drugs.

“He had been there on the day prior to this (a Monday) to carry out the act. However he hadn’t seen Rose Kenny and so he went back the following day armed with a knife,” said the barrister.

The court heard that there was “no indication” from gardai that Rose Kenny had informed gardai about drugs being in his house "in any way."

“He didn’t express remorse during the course of being interviewed for what he had done. He was charged with attempted murder subsequently and a trial date for the case was fixed. The case was opened by the prosecution and he then pleaded guilty to count 1. He had pleaded guilty to count 2 on the indictment which was assault causing harm,” said Mr Marrinan.

The court heard that Denis Leahy was 48 years of age at the time of the offence and had worked previously as a taxi driver, security guard and was in the army before he left Ireland for Thailand.

The accused had one previous conviction in 1990 for a public order offence for which he received a fine.

Mr Marrinan then read a report from a counsellor called Philip Burke who Rose Kenny had attended in 2015.  In his opinion she was suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder following the attack.

The court heard that Rose Kenny presented herself to the counsellor with severe anxiety and explained that her ex-partner had “savagely attacked” her and then “left her for dead.”

The report which was read to the court last week said: “Rose Kenny is unable to return to where the attack took place and she no longer feels safe when she is not indoors. She is currently unemployed and has lost her desire to return to work as a result of the attack. She is prone to outbursts of anger and irritability and fears random attack from strangers in the street. When she is required to venture outdoors she rushes everywhere."

Defence counsel Mr Sean Gillane SC told the court that it was of “material significance” that his client had presented himself in Mountjoy Garda Station on the morning of the attack.

“At this stage the injured party was unaware who had attacked her,” he said.

The court heard that the accused “accepted unreservedly” in the course of his detention that he had carried out the attack.

Mr Gillane told the court that his client is from the Mountjoy Street area of Dublin and he had left school at 14 years of age but had a “serious capacity for work.”

The court heard he has been in custody since his arrest in September 2014.

His barrister asked the court to take into account his guilty plea which came on the day that the case opened and meant that Rose Kenny did not have to give evidence in the trial.

“It ought to be said that his guilty plea is a public acknowledgement of responsibility for what happened to Ms Kenny. He has asked me to express his sorrow for what he visited on her,” he said.

Mr Gillane told the court that his client is at a juncture in his life where the sentence that will be imposed on him "is of significance."

He also asked that his client be treated as leniently as possible and as someone who "effectively had no previous convictions."

LAST WEEK'S VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT IN FULL:

Last Thursday morning Ms Kenny took the stand and read her victim impact statement to the court.

The court heard that on the morning of September 23 she was a “normal 49-year-old woman living a normal existence.”

“I had family obligations and I had worked since the age of 14. I always had a carefree spirit that my family and friends enjoyed. I never gave a second thought to stepping outside my house and just got on with my normal day to day activities. I tried to be a good mother, a good daughter, a good sister and generally just to be a good person,” she said.

The court heard that now Ms Kenny’s life is in two separate segments. Her life can be categorised into “before the attempted murder” on her and her life “after it.”

Ms Kenny read that on the morning of September 23 2014 she left her flat at the usual time of 7.50am to make the forty second journey to her place of employment at the local family resource centre that also operated as a crèche.

“I was a key holder but I never got to open that morning and have never returned to my flat that I had lived in for the past 22 years. I just couldn’t walk up them stairs again where the attack happened. I’ve relocated from an area that I lived and worked all my life and had to leave a community that I so belonged to,” she read.

Ms Kenny told the court that she was attacked that morning by a man that she did not recognise as being Denis Leahy, a man that she had shared many years with as her partner.

Although she is the victim, she said: “I have to live with the guilt I feel of how I brought this man into my life and without knowing that I put my life and that of my daughter and family and friends life in danger. How could I have known that he was capable of doing such gruesome things to another human being. Every day I ask myself how could I have been such a bad judge of character."

The court heard that Denis Leahy left her in hospital for seven weeks with "horrendous injuries." For four of those weeks she could not swallow her saliva.

"I had to have a suction tube in my hands at all times. I couldn't walk, talk or swallow and was totally dependent on others. I had my sister Jeanette and my beautiful daughter Jamie sleep with me all night in the hospital for the first week as I was so sure I was going to die," she read.

The court heard she spent twelve hours in surgery on the day of the attack, her arm was lacerated but luckily one of Ireland's top surgeons was in St James Hospital that day.

The doctor put her arm back together and Ms Kenny told the court that it does not look "so bad now."

"The same can't be said for the other scars, the mental and the physical. My back, abdomen, chest and neck are destroyed with stab wounds but these can be hidden. But what I can't hide is my horrible gravelly voice, it embarrasses me when I speak and especially when strangers in shops that are serving me ask was I out singing last night. How I wish that was the case," she read.

Ms Kenny told the court that the morning Denis Leahy attacked her, he attacked her whole family, "the very same family that he had holidayed with, attended weddings and christenings with," she read.

The court heard that the accused had to know that she (Rose Kenny) had just buried her younger sister Sharon ten weeks prior to the attempted murder on her.

"He knew this and still had no qualms about putting my family to more pain. Denis Leahy also knew that my younger sister and daughter lived in the same complex as me," she read.

The court heard that after the attack her sister came running out of her home to find her "bleeding profusely on the ground."

A few minutes after that her daughter Jamie was on the scene.

"I will never forget the screams out of both of them. They also have been scarred for life and I feel so terrible that they have to carry those images with them for the rest of their lives," she read.

The court heard Ms Kenny never lost consciousness until she got to the hospital.

"I knew if I closed my eyes I would never open them again and I had to stay alive to look out for my Jamie, although now that role has been reversed," she read.

Ms Kenny told the court that she returned to live with her 80-year-old mother after her release from hospital that November. Her mother accompanied her every second day to the dressings clinic to have her wounds "plugged and dressed."

Ms Kenny continued going to the clinic until Christmas week and then they healed enough for her mother to change the dressings.

"I wish Denis Leahy could have seen the pain in her eyes while she was doing that," she read.

Ms Kenny said she has always considered herself to be a strong woman. She returned to work in May 2015 but had to finish in April 2016.

"My voice just couldn't cope with answering the phones and meeting and greeting the parents of the children in the creche," she said.

"I just feel so broken. I don’t trust the world in the same way that I always had. I'm always in a state of anxiety for both myself and my family. I fight these feelings every day but some days I just want to curl up and stay in bed," she read.

The court heard that her family are now helping her fix her life again and she now lives in a new flat where she has had to start from scratch.

"I’m waiting to get speech therapy and then with the help of my counsellor I hope to return to work next year. I know I will never be the same carefree easy going woman that I was before Denis Leahy tried to murder me," she read.

Ms Kenny said she will try very hard to get "as near as possible to being that person again."

"After trying his best to murder me and leaving me so damaged he still has shown no remorse for what he did," she concluded.

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