News Crime

Saturday 24 August 2019

'He took away my independence' - grandmother (79) was attacked after she visited her dying brother

Grandmother Marie Bullman (79) speaks to reporter Pat O' Connell from her home in Cork
Pic: Sunday World
Grandmother Marie Bullman (79) speaks to reporter Pat O' Connell from her home in Cork Pic: Sunday World

Patrick O'Connell

A 79-year-old grandmother who suffered fractures to her pelvis and broken ribs after being mugged has branded her attacker as "scum" and said he took away her independence.

Widow Marie Bullman from Co Cork was left with four fractures to her pelvis along with three broken ribs and will permanently require the aid of a tracheotomy tube in order to breathe as a result of the horrific mugging by Jonathan Duggan.

At the time of the attack, Duggan was free to walk the streets despite having amassed 31 convictions for theft alone.

Marie, who is just 5ft 2 inches tall, was robbed outside her own home in Cork after coming from a visit with her dying brother.

Marie’s injuries were so bad that she would spend a number of months in hospital and would miss her brother’s funeral.

Speaking after Judge Brian O’Callaghan handed down a landmark sentence of 11 years for the vicious attack, Maria said of Duggan: “He has taken away my independence, I will never ever forgive him for that.”

Marie said that serial criminal Duggan should not have been out on the streets.

“He already had 31 previous convictions, so why was he free to do this to me in the first place?

“The justice system is way too soft and now I am the one who is paying for that.”

The attack took place as Maria arrived home at 6.30pm on October 22 last year, with the attacker pouncing as she went to put her keys into the door of her home.

“I was dropped to my home at 6.30pm and walked up the path to the door,” Marie recalled.

“I was putting my key in the door when all I hear was two footsteps behind me and someone grabbing my bag and pulling it with one hand while grabbing me by the neck and shoulder and pushing me to the ground.

“I attempted to grab the windowsill on my way down, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get up with the pain and began shouting for help.

“Two men passing by ran to help me up off the ground and my neighbour called the ambulance and the gardaí.

“I spent two months in hospital. My injuries included four fractures to my pelvis. I had to learn how to walk again.

“I also had three broken ribs which were painful and affected by movement and breathing.

“My vocal cords and airway were damaged from the fall and due to deteriorating health.

“I had to undergo an operation to have a tracheotomy tube inserted into my neck so I could breathe properly again. I have this permanently now and it has severely affected my quality of life.

“I am now dependent on my family as I cannot manage my needs on my own. This attack has taken my independence and that cannot be forgiven.

“Due to my hospital stay, I missed my brother’s funeral. He died two days after my attack. I also missed my grandson’s wedding two weeks after that.

“My attack has cost me financially, emotionally and has cost me my good health.

“I have had to leave my home to live with my daughter and her family.

“I no longer see my friends and neighbours. I used to go to bingo weekly and go out socially, but I can no longer do this.”

Sitting in the living room of the house outside which she was attacked by Duggan, Marie says she still can’t understand why Duggan pushed her after taking her bag.

“He could have just taken my bag, he didn’t need to push me, that’s what I don’t understand.

“Before this happened I was planning on going on a cruise with my friends – my husband and daughter had died four years earlier and I was really only coming to terms with that.

“He had been waiting in a car with someone else and I was just someone else to rob.

“The justice system needs to be tightened up, it’s too loose, why should I be the one who is now suffering for that?”

Marie said she was pleased that Judge O’Callaghan had sent out a message with the 11-year sentence adding at least now she can finally put what happened behind her.

Marie’s son Conrad, who now cares for his mother along with the rest of his family, said watching his mother suffer was horrific.

“For someone to do this to an elderly woman… it’s disgusting.

“In the beginning they [the doctors] didn’t think she’d make it and then later they gave her a wheelchair because they’d thought she wouldn’t walk again.”

Marie said she wanted to thank in particular Detective Garda Alan Johnson, the nurses in Ward 5b in Cork University Hospital and the doctor in charge of her case, Dr Gallagher.

“They were all so good to me, I’ll never forget that,” she said.

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court this week Duggan was sentenced to 14 years in total for several crimes, including 11 years for the robbery of Marie at Gurranabraher, Cork, on October 22, 2018.

Duggan, of Ballinderry Park, Mayfield, Cork, who already had 31 previous convictions for theft alone, pleaded guilty to robbing Ms Bullman of her handbag and its contents including a Samsung phone worth €300 as well as her purse containing €300 in cash on October 22, 2018.

Duggan’s other offences included the theft of a handbag containing €800 in cash, a hearing aid worth €3,000, a Samsung phone worth €300, car keys worth €300 and house keys worth €100 belonging to a woman at Delia’s Kitchen on Carey’s Lane in Cork on September 27, 2018.

Commenting on the theft of that property, the judge said one could imagine how the owner felt about “your dirty hands in her handbag fiddling around in her personal items”.

Sunday World

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