Sunday 21 April 2019

'Dangerous man' who attacked three women jailed for 18-and-a-half years

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

Declan Brennan

A judge has jailed a father-of-two for 18-and-a-half years for carrying out premeditated random attacks on women over a five year period.

Judge Pauline Codd described the violent attacks on three women by the 34-year-old man as primal and brutal. She said “he is clearly a dangerous man”.

The man attacked three women in 2011, 2015 and 2016 at locations around Clondalkin in south Dublin. Two of the attacks involved a sexual assault and took place late at night as the women walked home after a night out.

The last attack was carried out in broad daylight as the victim, Ruth Maxwell, was walking to the Luas to go to work when the man put a hunting knife to her throat.

This took place on Knockmeenagh Lane, Clondalkin, Dublin, not far from the other two attacks and near a house occupied by the family of the man's partner.

The other two victims cannot be identified for legal reasons.

After a three week trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, a jury of eleven men found the man guilty of carrying out the three attacks. All verdicts were unanimous.

Today Judge Pauline Codd said all the attacks were very serious and there had been an escalation in violence over the three attacks. She said the violence was brutal and primal in nature.

She said the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had shown no remorse. She said the attacks were premeditated and the involvement of a leather belt, a hunting knife, duct tape and cable ties were aggravating factors.

She imposed consecutive sentences of eight years, nine and a half years and five years. She suspended the final four years on condition that he successfully complete sex offender programmes in custody as directed by the Probation Service.

Judge Codd also imposed a nine year period of post release supervision on condition that he obey any curfew set by the Probation Services, notify gardaí of his residence, and keep a travel log of all journeys he takes.

During a lengthy sentence hearing, the man, a foreign national who has lived and worked in Ireland since 2008, sat impassively. He has been in custody since his arrest in June 2016 as a suspect for the attack the previous month.

Roisin Lacey SC, prosecuting, told the court that it was the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions, based on the evidence, that the man posed a risk to the public.

The man had pleaded not guilty to nine charges, including false imprisonment, sexual assault, assault and possession of a hunting knife with intent to intimidate. A jury convicted him of all counts last March.

The first attack took place late at night on September 11, 2011. The man attacked the victim as she was walking home from a night out, dragging her to the ground and sexually assaulting her.

She managed to get away from him, but he caught her and began punching her repeatedly around the face.

On September 3, 2015, a second woman was walking home late at night when he came up behind her and put a leather belt around her neck and pulled her backwards to the ground. He wrapped duct tape around her face and hands before sexually assaulting her.

This woman told the court she thought she was going to die during the attack, saying: “I thought I was dying. I had gone quite light headed, like I was passing out. I felt it was for the best. I didn’t know what was going to happen”.

The third attack was carried out in broad daylight on the early morning of May 16, 2016. The victim was walking along Knockmeenagh Lane to the nearby Luas stop when the man, armed with a hunting knife, put his arm around her neck and began to pull her backwards.

This woman told the court that she thought the man was going to slit her throat and she grabbed the blade to stop that happening, causing the knife to cut tendons in three of her fingers. She managed to get out from under the knife and began screaming and he ran off.

He was identified after detectives used CCTV cameras to track a white van spotted near the scene of the 2016 attack back to the road he lived on.

In addition, detectives used a wild card search of a partial registration provided by neighbours who had seen the van parked in the area and identified it as one registered to him.

After his arrest, gardaí matched his DNA to blood and semen samples taken from the two earlier crime scenes. Tests on blood traces on a jacket seized by gardaí from his bedroom in June 2016 revealed it was the third victim's blood.

Judge Codd praised the “excellent work” of the gardaí and the staff of the Forensic Science Laboratory in the three separate investigations. She said the sensitive investigations were carried out with “humanity, sensitivity and compassion”.

She also commended the courage and dignity of the complainants, saying: “I trust and hope they can rebuild their lives”. Finally she commended the people of the Clondalkin area who came forward as witnesses and especially those who came to the aid of the women, praising their “humanity and compassion”.

Judge Codd said that she had a difficulty accepting the assessment of the Probation Service, which in a report placed the man at a medium risk of re-offending. The report contained factual errors and a probation officer told the court that the assessment was based on the man having committed one offence.

She said that this was based on the sentencing occasion, rather than the number of offences committed for that sentence. She said a person could be up for sentence on 20 offences and it would only be counted as one.

The court heard the man would not engage with the Probation Service and did not accept his culpability.

Orla Crowe SC, defending, said her client maintained his right to appeal the case.

Additional evidence

Ms Maxwell, who had just started a new job in Dublin city when the attack took place, told the court that the attack has broken her spirit and she feels she will never recover.

Reading her victim impact statement to the court, she said that she suffered a life changing injury to her hand when fighting off the knife attack. She said she has cried so much for the loss of her hand.

In her victim impact statement the victim of the 2011 attack, when she was dragged to the ground throttled and repeatedly punched, said the first few days after the attack was a blur due to shock and trauma.

She said she found it hard to sleep for months afterwards and friends had to stay with her. The attack took place very close to her home she could not look out her windows during the day time.

She suffered from black eyes and a broken nose and did not leave her house for some time afterwards because of her injuries. When she returned to work she was told to take more time off because her appearance would make clients uncomfortable.

She said she would not consider walking home at night now and was now constantly looking over her shoulder. She thanked Garda Joseph Maguire, now retired, for his assistance and for his advice on how to build up confidence back up.

The complainant in the 2015 attack suffered extensive bruising and scrapes to her face and body and told the court she had to take HIV medication as a precaution. She suffers extreme anxiety which has affected every aspect of her life.

She said she had gone from being laid back and carefree to being hyper vigilant and nervous. She had continuing nightmares and disturbed sleep. She said she didn't walk alone in the dark anymore and felt endangered.

“I know how hard I fought when he attacked me. I thought I was going to die and I remember feeling it might be for the best,” she stated.

She said she had to resume counselling during the trial because it made her relive the trauma of the attack.

"It has set me back in every aspect of my life. I detached from everyone around me, I isolated myself and felt completely alone.

“I am uncomfortable in social settings and get very anxious. I feel very angry at being deprived of being how I once was,” she said.

Judge Codd said she was taking in consideration the mitigating factors that the man was described as a good father in testimonials handed into court, as well as his history of alcohol and drug abuse issues.

She also noted that he was subjected to violence as a child and lost his spleen during an assault at the hands of his father. She also noted an early childhood diagnosis which was not treated but she did not specify what the condition was.

Ms Maxwell told the court that where once she enjoyed physical activities now she felt like her spirit was broken and she believed the physical and emotional pain would manifest for rest of her life. She said she no longer felt safe to go running or training early in the morning, an activity she used to get a lot out of before the attack.

"I cried a grieving cry for the loss of functionality of my hand. I have cried so much for all the loss that I feel and at one point I thought I would never stop crying.

“I am frightened of so many things now. I'm especially frightened for my daughter and granddaughter.

“Before the attack I was optimistic but now if I haven't heard from my daughter for a day I jump into fear and all the awful things that could have happened to her.

“Even though I know rationally this is unlikely and I understand where my fears are related to, I am paralysed by them.

"My spirit is broken and I'm afraid of people and crowds. The physical and emotional hurt and pain has continued for two years and will probably continue to manifest itself in some form daily for the rest of my life.

"Everyday life has changed for me. Because of the extensive injuries to my hand I've had to adapt my surroundings. The simplest tasks take patience and planning. I'm still awaiting further surgery ... the whole process could take a further 2.5 years to see a possible 5% improvement."

“I think the attack has fundamentally changed my outlook on the world. I try to get back to the positive person I know I was but it is a bit like pretending or a bit like being in some kind of horror movie or nightmare that I'm still waiting to wake up from.

“I can see who I used to be but I'm not sure how to get back to be that person. I feel very fractured - a bit like my hand - not being able to get a good grip on things.

“I am very proud of my strength in fighting back against my attacker, I am very proud of my strength in enduring the trial process and all that it has entailed but at the same time I do feel broken.

“I do not feel good about myself, I do not feel confident anymore in any of my roles in life - whether that's a mother, a grandmother, a woman, a friend, a partner an employee. This is in fact the biggest impact of the attack."

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