Saturday 17 March 2018

Men jailed after robbing home of pre-operative transsexual who was threatened with a scissors by accomplice

Sonya McLean

Two Lithuanian men who broke into the home of a pre-operative transsexual after an accomplice had arranged to avail of the victim’s sexual services have been sentenced to five years.

It was accepted in court that while Modestas Petkus (25) and Vytautas Bernotas (27) were present when the woman’s house was raided, they were not in the company of their accomplice when he took a scissor to the woman’s genitalia.

The accomplice had just discovered the victim was a pre-operative transsexual during the course of a physical assault on her.

Bernotas and Petkus were instead searching her home for items to steal.

Detective Garda Patrick Traynor told Sean Guerin BL, prosecuting, that the woman had arranged to meet one man at her home in Mulhuddart. He arrived and they negotiated a price for sexual services but the man then said he had forgotten his wallet and left on the promises of returning with it.

When he did return he had three other men with him, including Petkus and Bernotas.

The woman was tied up with duct tape, her mouth was stuffed with a top before it was taped and she was slapped and kicked in the chest. Prior to gagging her, the gang demanded money from her and she directed them where to find it.

Det Gda Traynor said at one point during the assault it became obvious the woman was a pre-operative transsexual and the man took a scissors to her genitals.

She escaped major injury to her genitals apart from a cut to her inner thigh. She was however left with badly bruised lips and her breast implant had been knocked out of alignment from the kick to her chest.

Det Gda Traynor said despite extensive garda investigation they have not been able to identify the two other culprits.

Petkus and Bernotas both of The Steeples, Duleek, County Meath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm and burglary at the woman’s home in Mulhuddart on April 17, 2011.

Petkus has one previous conviction for speeding while Bernotas has none.

Petkus was arrested after he went to Drogheda Garda Station the following day to report that his car, which was used in the course of the crime, had been stolen. His vehicle, a blue Opel Vectra, had been left behind at the woman’s house when the four men fled the scene.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said while she accepts that the men were possibly upstairs while the woman was seriously assaulted, they were present when her home was raided and were otherwise involved in the offence.

Sean Gillane SC, defending Petkus, asked the court to accept that there was no evidence to suggest that the attack on the woman had been pre-planned. He submitted that his client had not physically harmed her.

A victim impact report before the court stated that the woman sustained some physical injuries and was also psychologically badly affected. She has since left the country.

Judge Ring suspended the final two years of the sentence having taken into account the men’s lack of previous serious convictions.

“There is no issue of duress from the others involved, no question of a debt being paid off so the court is left mystified as to how two otherwise decent men became involved in this terrifying offence,” Judge Ring said.

Mr Gillane said his client was truly sorry for what he had done and could not give an explanation for how he got involved in this offence.

Patrick Marrinan SC, defending Bernotas, said his client’s plea of guilty meant that the harm he had caused the woman that night was not prolonged by her having to travel back to Ireland and give evidence at trial.

Counsel said his client was not aware when going to the house that day that violence and threats would be used. He said Bernotas was taken by surprise when he saw what the other two men were doing.

“This was clearly a very nasty attack on someone who was vulnerable and it was believed that this was something that may not ultimately have been reported to the gardaí because of the circumstances out of which it arose,” Mr Marrinan said.

Det Gda Traynor said the assault came to an end when a neighbour, who noticed the four men going into the woman’s home, rang the doorbell. The men fled and escaped over neighbouring houses. The Vectra was left at the scene and Petkus’s documentation was found in it.

Det Gda Traynor said other neighbours were able to provide gardaí with the registration details of the car the men arrived in and had also taken photographs of the men on their phones.

The woman, had CCTV cameras set up in her home because of her work in the sex trade and the men were clearly captured on the footage.

Petkus arrived at Drogheda Garda Station to complain that his car had been stolen which led to his nomination as a suspect. Fingerprints taken from the apartment matched his and his national identity card was also recovered.

Gardaí arrived at his home the following June to arrest Petkus and saw Bernotas was in the house at the time. He was arrested when gardaí recognised him from the CCTV footage and the photographs.

Judge Ring said it was with the help of the woman’s “very observant neighbours” that these men were arrested.

She described it as “an unwarranted attack” and said there was nothing in either Petkus’ or Bernotas’ background to indicate that they would be involved in criminal activity let alone one as serious as this.

She said the woman is still receiving treatment for the injuries caused to her chest that day and none of the property taken from her home has been recovered.  

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