Sunday 15 December 2019

Murderer gets three years for assault causing harm

Natasha Reid

A KILDARE man serving a life sentence for murdering his ex-partner has been given a three-year jail sentence for stabbing her new boyfriend.

In a case that the judge described as “sad and tragic”, Michael McDonald stabbed John Lawlor in his hand before turning the knife on Breda Cummins and stabbing her six times in the chest.

The 51-year-old of Barnhill, Castledermot was found guilty late last year of murdering 31-year-old Ms Cummins and of assault causing harm to Mr Lawlor (44) on May 13, 2010.

He had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the mother-of-one but not guilty to her murder at Michael Dooley Terrace, Athy. McDonald had denied assault causing harm to Mr Lawlor of Pearse Terrace, Castledermot on the same occasion.

However, a Central Criminal Court jury found him guilty of both crimes following a trial in November.

Detective Sergeant Seán Boland told the court today that six weeks before the offences McDonald and Ms Cummins, who were both alcoholics, had ended their five-year relationship.

She moved out and began a relationship with their acquaintance, Mr Lawlor, moving into the house on Doorley Terrace with him. The accused made it clear that he was unhappy about this.

D Sgt Boland explained that around 11pm on the night of May 12, the accused armed himself with a steak knife and took a taxi the 18km from his home to Doorley Terrace. He had been drinking and taking tablets, but not beyond his usual level of consumption.

He knocked on the door, which was answered by another tenant. He brushed past this man and went upstairs to the couple’s bedroom.

He announced his intention to take Breda Cummins away with him, but Mr Lawlor said no. He produced the knife and made a stabbing motion at Mr Lawlor, prompting him to raise his hand defensively. In doing so, he received a penetrating injury to his right hand.

The detective agreed with the prosecution that Mr Lawlor then ran downstairs, leaving the accused alone with Ms Cummins. McDonald stabbed her six times in the heart and lungs as she lay on the bed.

McDonald left and ran to an acquaintance’s house, where he confessed to what he’d done. He had stabbed the knife into a nearby lawn on his way.

Gardaí arrested McDonald at his home later on and he was interviewed a number of times.

He first denied taking the knife from his house, but later admitted it.

A doctor gave evidence in the trial of Mr Lawlor’s injury: a laceration to his right thumb, which included an exit wound. It had divided a tendon and nerve, which had to be repaired during surgery.

However, Mr Lawlor had said he was more concerned with the psychological distress he suffered than the physical injury.

The detective agreed with Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending, that all parties were highly intoxicated that night and that his client had been motivated to go to the house by concern for Ms Cummins.

He said he regretted having stabbed Mr Lawlor.

In a victim impact statement read in court, Mr Lawlor said he had started to suffer from depression after the attack and couldn’t sleep due to thinking about the incident and Ms Cummins.

He said he had lost his partner and was having trouble moving on with his life.

“It has left me totally devastated,” he wrote. “I feel constant guilt that I couldn’t prevent Breda’s death.”

Mr Kavanagh told the court that his client said his stabbing motion at Mr Lawlor was a ‘warding-off’ movement.

The barrister said McDonald had mental problems since he was a child and had struggled with alcohol dependency since university, from which he dropped out in his final year.

He said that he had little or no family support despite his parents being alive and having six siblings and a daughter in her 20s. He said his father was supportive but was unwell and couldn’t visit him in prison.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said that it had been a ‘sad and tragic trial’.

She said that both the accused and Mr Lawlor were lucky that his injury was not more serious.

She said that the long-term impact on him was more likely to be the psychological effects of Breda Cummins’s loss of life.

She also said that it was very sad to see the potential talent and ability that McDonald had as a young man deteriorate to the extent it had.

“He has very serious problems. I hope he’ll succeed in addressing them in prison,” she said.

“The knife was brought to the scene and used against an unarmed man,” she said.

She imposed a three-year sentence for the assault to run concurrently with the life sentence he is serving for murder.

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