Tuesday 16 January 2018

'I still cry when I think of it' - Man (51) facing jail for sexually assaulting elderly neighbour

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Sonya McLean

A Limerick man who called gardaí and told them he had just tried to kill his elderly neighbour will be sentenced next week for attacking and sexually assaulting the woman.

The 51-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, 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 Cork home.

Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting said the man asked the woman if she would share the wine she was drinking with him before he “suddenly switched temper, told her he could have her, clattered her and put a cushion over her face”.

He then 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.

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.

The woman gave her direct evidence to the jury but before she was cross-examined by the man's legal team, he asked to be re-arraigned. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault and this was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Gageby read the woman's victim impact report in which she stated that her life had 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 submitted to Mr Justice Paul 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.

Mr Justice Coffey remanded the man in continuing custody and adjourned the case for sentence next Monday.

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