Friday 24 November 2017

'That person he raped is dead,' says brave victim as attacker jailed for 12 years

Dominique Meehan with her father William after her attacker, Keith Hearne, was sentenced to 12 years in jail at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Dominique Meehan with her father William after her attacker, Keith Hearne, was sentenced to 12 years in jail at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers

Conor Feehan and Andrew Phelan

The victim of a violent rape at a gaming convention in Dublin said that part of her died on that day.

Dominique Meehan bravely spoke out after a 12-year sentence was handed down to her attacker Keith Hearne.

Hearne (28) brought a "rape kit" with a prop knife, handcuffs, mask and condoms and told the terrified victim: "I could break your neck here and now."

Hearne, from Allenton Drive, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, one count of oral rape and one count of falsely imprisoning the woman at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Blanchardstown on July 4, 2015.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy handed down the sentence at the Central Criminal Court, saying the ordeal had been "devastating" for the victim.

The judge said the accused perpetrated an "extremely violent series of sexual offences" on the victim, extending to her false imprisonment over a period of time.

Ms Meehan (24) said she now has to reinvent herself, because she has forgotten who she was before the brutal event.

"I don't know who I am any more. I can't remember who I was before I was raped, and I'm trying to reinvent myself so I'll know who I am. I don't know how I'm going to proceed from here," she told the Irish Independent.

"In my opinion that person that he raped is dead. That person was so naïve, so innocent, because I suppose I believed those kind of things didn't happen to people.

"I'd see it in the news and in the papers, but I just couldn't believe that something that awful could happen to someone, but now I know it does, so that person, I believe, is dead."

Ms Meehan has waived her right to anonymity.

Ms Meehan was volunteering at the ArcadeCon gaming convention on the day and was preparing a presentation in a meeting room when Hearne entered the room. When she tried to leave, Hearne locked the door and threw her to the ground. The attack stopped only when another conference worker entered the room.

Hearne told gardaí he had gone to the convention in the hopes of getting with another woman but when she rejected him he said he had "anger flowing through him".

Reading psychiatric reports, the judge said Hearne had schizoaffective disorder and autism spectrum disorder but the report found Hearne was "of sound mind" at the time of the offence, so his "culpability was not diminished in any way".

A probation report put it more "starkly" and stated the accused was at high risk of re-offending.

Ms Meehan yesterday told the Irish Independent that she sees her attacker as "evil".

"He is an evil man, and whatever disorders or mental issues he has, like, I have mental issues. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and I never forget to take my medication, so his not taking medication is only an excuse," she said.

She said that she was "absolutely delighted" with the sentence. "I was expecting much less than that. I feel so safe.

"This is a massive weight off my shoulders. I don't think I've ever been so close to crying, but for a good reason. I'm ecstatic," Ms Meehan added.

Outside court Ms Meehan, who is now studying game design in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, said it was important that victims of rape come forward.

"This is what I wanted, this is what the [gaming] convention community needed, to prove that this man was as evil as he is," she said.

"The reason I'm waving my anonymity isn't for popularity, it's for people to know that coming forward to say you were raped is a good thing and you can do it."

She also said it was important to identify Hearne because she felt if she hadn't then he could have been free to go back to any convention "as if he'd been on holiday".

"He could attack someone else," she said.

"My whole life has been impacted. There is no ifs, buts and ands about it, nothing in my life is the same any more. I have to treat every day like someone is going to rape me. I am constantly on alert."

Judge McCarthy backdated the prison sentence to last April and ordered that Hearne is put under post-release probation supervision for five years.

Irish Independent

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