Wednesday 18 July 2018

Convicted rapist jailed for 12 years for attempting to murder Wicklow man in front of his family

Eoghan O’Connell
Eoghan O’Connell

Natasha Reid

A convicted rapist has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for attempting to murder a Wicklow man in front of his wife and children, failing only because his shotgun cartridges were damp.

Eoghan O’Connell tried to shoot the father of three twice, as his victim was leaving the family home to go to work shortly after 7am. However, the shotgun misfired both times.

The victim and his family have since sold their home and left Co Wicklow.

The 29-year-old cancer survivor of Dargle Heights in Bray was before the Central Criminal Court on Friday for sentencing. Also a father of three, he had pleaded guilty to attempting to murder the man in his driveway at Old Court Park, Bray on April 8 2016.

The court had heard last month that the victim, who is in his late 30s, had been confronted by a masked man brandishing a shotgun as he left his wife and family to go to work that morning.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy yesterday noted that O’Connell had discharged the weapon twice, ‘plainly in an attempt to kill him’ but that the ammunition was damp and it misfired. Two spent cartridges were found on the ground.

“He struggled with the assailant and pulled off his balaclava,” he said of the victim. “His 11-year-old son tried to help, using a brush.”

The accused escaped.

The judge noted that the victim had known his attacker since childhood. He said that the background to the attack was not completely clear, but that there had been an altercation involving two groups in a pub years earlier. The victim had been associated with one of the groups and the accused with the other.

He described as ‘extremely strong’ the evidence, as built by the gardaí.

“There was the recognition evidence of an extremely strong kind,” he said, noting that there had also been DNA evidence in the case.

“The body of evidence was significant, a relevant factor when considering weight to be attached to a plea of guilty,” he said.

The judge noted that the victim’s family had moved home since the incident. He said that this had caused serious upset and difficulty for them.

He noted that simple things, such as the ringing of a doorbell, now created panic in them. The children, who had witnessed the attack, now suffer night terrors and anxiety.

He noted that O’Connell had 65 previous convictions, including one for rape and two for assault causing harm. He had spent a number of years in prison.

The judge described his background as dismal.

“It seems he was a member of a gravely dysfunctional family,” he said, pointing out that he had witnessed grave violence at home.

He read from reports submitted by the defence that the accused had begun abusing drugs from the age of 10 and heroin from the age of 14.

“He has limited life experience outside the culture of crime and violence,” he read from the report.

The court had previously heard that O’Connell was in remission from testicular cancer, something the judge described as ‘a wake-up call’.

He said that the appropriate sentence for the crime was 16 years. However, after taking his guilty plea into account, he imposed a sentence of 12 years, backdating it to 2nd May 2016.

“He will have a long prison sentence,” he said.

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