Friday 21 September 2018

'Deaths by suffocation with plastic bags leave no trace' - two women sentenced to six years

Anna Marie Pezzillo
Anna Marie Pezzillo

Eoin Reynolds

TWO women who pleaded guilty to killing a man by suffocating him with a plastic bag have been sentenced to six years in prison.

Anna Marie Pezzillo (35), of no fixed abode, and Rachel Comiskey (35), with an address at Dodsboro Cottages, Lucan pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Ian Quinn (32) at Annally Grove, Ongar, Dublin 15 between May 30th and 31st, 2014. Their pleas were accepted by the State on March 5 last and Justice Patrick McCarthy sentenced them today at the Central Criminal Court

He said the mitigating factors in the case are their guilty pleas and interviews they gave to gardai detailing what happened on the night Mr Quinn lost his life. The women told gardai that they had been drinking heavily and taking drugs. A fight broke out and they put the bag over Mr Quinn's head to frighten him.

Justice McCarthy sentenced Ms Pezzillo to eight years with two suspended and Ms Comiskey to six years with none suspended. He said he was giving Ms Pezillo a longer sentence as she has 112 previous convictions and has shown "that over many years she was a person who had no respect at all or capacity to obey the law." The final two years of Ms Pezillo's sentence will be suspended on the condition that she abide by the directions of the probation services, abstain from illegal drugs and submit to any drug treatment programme recommended by the probation service. Both sentences were backdated to when they first went into custody.

Before delivering his sentence, Justice McCarthy said the deceased had a relationship with Comiskey for about 12 years. He was a person who had advantages in life but he took a wrong turn at an early age, causing trouble for his family. His lifestyle involved the use of drugs and alcohol and he lived on the streets or in homeless accommodation from time to time. However, he added, his family's trauma at his death has not been diminished by the fact his life did not adhere to the standards they would have hoped for.

He noted that Pezillo had 112 previous convictions while Ms Comiskey has 12, all of which were dealt with at District Court level.

He explained that sentencing is not an exercise in vengeance and that the factors he must consider are the need to punish the offender, set a deterrant both for society in general and the convicted persons, and to provide for rehabilitation. He added: "People do not lose their humanity because they have committed a serious crime." He added that the two-year suspension of Pezillo's sentence would help her to be reintroduced into society.

Sentence hearing

During a sentence hearing last month, the Court heard that Pezillo and Comiskey emerged from the flat at Annally Grove in the early hours of May 31, 2014 and got a passerby to call emergency services. When emergency services arrived Mr Quinn's body, cold and showing signs of rigor mortis, was in a bedroom dressed in boxer shorts.

At the scene one of the women said, "We had a bag over his head," and when they spoke to gardai at the scene they said they had been drinking vodka for two days and taking tranquillisers. Comiskey told gardai that Mr Quinn was "swinging me around the place" and that they put a bag over his head and said: "How do you like it?" Comiskey also said that she put holes in the bag to allow him to breathe and both women maintained that they hadn't intended to kill him but wanted to frighten him.

The two women were arrested and questioned but subsequently released from custody. Shortly afterwards an article appeared on the front page of the Sunday World newspaper in which Pezillo admitted her role in the killing. She said all three of them had been drinking and taking tablets and fell asleep. When they woke up Mr Quinn had wet himself and Comiskey took his jeans and top off. Mr Quinn became annoyed and a fight broke out. Pezillo thought Mr Quinn was going to hit Comiskey so she intervened but was struck in the face. They put two bags over his head and said to him: "How do you like it." She said they did it for "just a few seconds" and afterwards they thought he had passed out. The two women went to bed and when they woke up they realised he was dead and called emergency services. She said they did not intend to kill him.

In interviews with gardai Pezillo accepted that what was said in the article was largely true, although she felt some of it was exaggerated.

Both women wrote letters to the court expressing their remorse for the killing. Michael Bowman SC for Pezillo said that she had drunk four bottles of vodka and taken tablets and that when they put the bags over the deceased's head their intention was to frighten, not kill. His client started taking drugs aged 13 and was living rough by the age of 18. He pointed out that State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy had said that deaths by suffocation from plastic bags leave no trace. Therefore the statements made by Pezillo were of critical importance to the prosecution. Professor Cassidy's report stated that the cause of death was "undetermined".

In her letter Pezillo said she feels remorse, sorrow and shame for what she did and if she could swap places with Ian, she would.

Tara Burns SC for Comiskey told the court that her client had a very good family and had opportunities but took a wrong track in her teens, began drinking and quickly moved on to tablets and then heroin. Her mother wrote to the court to describe the difficulties the family suffered because of her poor behaviour and drug taking. However, she has made improvements in prison and has undergone a dramatic improvement in her outlook on life. In her letter to the court she said she wanted to express her remorse to the Quinn family, her own family and to the gardai. She said that she met Ian at a bus stop on O'Connell Street when she was 18 and loved him ever since.

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