Sunday 17 December 2017

'It's like they're living in Love/Hate' - Family of innocent gunshot victim now subjected to vile threats

'They don't realise what they've done to another family. They nearly killed someone. It’s a big joke to them'

Ciara Sheehan
Ciara Sheehan
Ms Sheehan in hospital Photo: Provision
Gavin Sheehan is led into Cork Circuit Criminal Court, where he was found guilty of the shot that seriously injured Ciara Sheehan. Photo: Provision

Denise Calnan and Ralph Riegel

An innocent young woman who survived a gunshot wound to the neck is now being subjected to vile online threats after a man was jailed for the attack.

Ciara Sheehan said her family are now looking to move house after Gavin Sheehan (30), of 7 Laurel Ridge, Shanakiel, Cork and who is of no relation to Ciara's family, was sentenced to 11 years.

The young woman was in her boyfriend’s house on the northside of Cork city last May when a shot was fired through the front window and hit Ciara in the neck.

The bullet was surgically removed from Ciara's neck and she was lucky to survive.

Mr Sheehan denied the charges against him, but was found guilty of possessing a firearm and discharging it, causing serious harm to Ciara.

 "We wanted to get closure on it," Ciara's mother Susan told RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme.

Ms Sheehan in hospital Photo: Provision
Ms Sheehan in hospital Photo: Provision

"Come home and get it done with. But during the sentencing, there were threats thrown at us.

"It's like they're living in their tele-land. you know Love/Hate? It's like they're living in that bubble.

"They don't realise what they've done to another family.

They nearly killed someone. It’s a big joke kind of a thing to them.

Gavin Sheehan is led into Cork Circuit Criminal Court, where he was found guilty of the shot that seriously injured Ciara Sheehan. Photo: Provision
Gavin Sheehan is led into Cork Circuit Criminal Court, where he was found guilty of the shot that seriously injured Ciara Sheehan. Photo: Provision

"They nearly killed a young girl. It's an absolute disgrace," she added.

Now, Ciara and her family are asking Cork City Council to move them from the area for a number of months.

Susan said they do not want to leave their home of 20 years but Ciara is "suffering" there.

Ciara described a Christmas card she received from Gavin as "blaguarding".

"In the Christmas card it says 'Sorry, for anything I've done to you'," she said.

"I got this card in January.

"He says 'sorry' in the card, but what's he sorry for if he pleaded not guilty?"

Ciara read from the letter; "I hope you don't be upset by this. I just want to say sorry what happened to you and I defo have no bitterness to you.

"I'm done with all that stuff.

"I wish you and Dillon the best in life and that's from the heart. The only thing I'm concentrating on is getting out and building a life for my daughter.

"Tell the Cunninghams and all your family I'm so sorry, try and have a good Christmas.

"I hope you do so and I'm glad you made a full recovery.

"I wish you the best in your life."

When asked what she thought of the letter, she replied; "Blaguarding."

"You had people saying 'Best wishes Ciara' and then you had people close to Gavin leaving comments, she'll have more than a bullet in her next time. She should have died when the bullet hit her.

"We're five minutes away from each other, I pass there most days and the house it happened outside.

"It's just there in my head straightaway.

"I don't accept the apology in the Christmas card and he didn't apologise in court.

"It's left me bad.

"Some nights I can't sleep, I get bad days, very bad days. It'd be better to just get out of here."

During the case, Judge Sean O'Donnabhain warned Gavin Sheehan it was a miracle Ms Sheehan hadn't been killed.

"This man mercilessly and deliberately took a gun and fired it into a dwelling house that was lit and occupied," the judge said.

Judge O'Donnabhain told Cork Circuit Criminal Court it was "reprehensible behaviour" that Mr Sheehan had later sent a Christmas card to his victim from prison.

"There is not a shred of remorse. I have been looking for remorse [in him], but I do not find it," he said.

CCTV camera footage at Mr Sheehan's own home showed him with a gun in his hand that night.

"The level of criminality is shown not by Garda evidence, but from his own 'peacock' display on his own CCTV camera [footage]."

Mr Sheehan posted a comment that evening by mobile phone that "I'm packing well" - slang for carrying a weapon.

Judge O'Donnabhain imposed a 14-year sentence, but suspended the final three years.

He backdated the sentence to May 15, 2016, when Mr Sheehan went into custody.

Mr Sheehan has 72 previous convictions, 14 for violent crime.

In defence submissions, it was claimed he was a Garda informer in Cork, supplying information about drugs, guns and general criminality.

However, Det Sergeant Denis Lynch said he couldn't comment.

"I am not in a position to answer that question," he said.

Charges

Mr Sheehan, the father of a 10-month-old child, was convicted last November by a jury of the reckless discharge of a firearm and assault causing serious harm to Ms Sheehan at Hollywood Estate on May 15, 2016.

He was also convicted of weapon and ammunition possession charges.

Mr Sheehan, of Laurel Ridge, Shanakiel, Cork, denied all charges.

The trial heard there was a long-running dispute between Mr Sheehan and members of the family of Ms Sheehan's boyfriend, Dillon Cunningham.

"All that went through my head was that I was going to die. It was like something from a movie," Ms Sheehan said.

"I felt my throat getting all tight and my face was burning. I put my hand up to my neck and it was covered in blood. I realised I was shot.

"I am [now] completely broken. I am a different person. When I look in the mirror every morning, all I can see is that big ugly scar on the side of my neck. I am going through torture."

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