Saturday 21 April 2018

'I was one kick away from death' - Irish musician Noel Hill believes attacker 'incapable of remorse'

Noel Hill, and (inset) recovering from his horrific injuries
Noel Hill, and (inset) recovering from his horrific injuries
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A well known Irish musician who was the victim of a savage assault on St Stephen's night over six years ago said he was "one kick away" from death.

Concertina player Noel Hill (57) suffered extensive injuries after he was attacked in a pub toilet by 55-year-old builder Michael Bartley Mharcuisin Folan in 2008.

Mr Hill had been in the toilets of Tí Padraig Mairtín Beag in Leitir Mór, Connemara that night with his partner when he was attacked from behind by Mr Folan, who had carried out work on a house Mr Hill was renovating.

"I went into the cubicle and I heard the door bang behind me. I pleaded [with him] as much as I could but I wasn't given much time, it was so unexpected, so mericless," Mr Hill told Joe Duffy on RTE Radio 1 this afternoon. 

"One more kick and I would have been gone, my skull was so badly broken. I was told [the impacts] were only millimetres from killing me... millimetres from two critical parts of my skull."

Yesterday, over six years after the vicious attack, Mr Folan was sentenced to seven years in prison with the final three years suspended.

Mr Hill told the radio show that Mr Folan, who he "met on the road frequently", has "never ever shown any sort of remorse". "I don't think he's capable of it," he said.

"There was no remorse of any kind shown, they just used every tactic to delay justice. However yesterday it just caught up with him - he just ran out of road."

His attacker insisted that his trial be heard in Irish, and that that the twelve jury members be fluent in the Irish language.

Mr Hill told Joe Duffy that he "purposely decided to make my home in Connemara as a single father" so that his children could speak their native language and said it was "ironic" that the Irish language could be used in such a way against him.

"I was rehearsing that attack for six and a half years so that I would be ready for court... I had to rehearse what I'd been through continuously for six and a half years," he added. 

During the trial, plastic surgeon Mr Patrick McCann told the jury that Mr Hill's left eye socket had been pushed back into his skull "like an egg in an eggcup" and he had replaced the damaged bone under the socket with titanium mesh in 2009.

The musician said his family and friends were unaware of the full extent of his injuries until the prosecution pictures were released to the media.

He physical recuperation was a long and arduous process, he said, and trying to get his memory back was "frustrating and embarrassing".

"I've made as good a recovery as I can but the psychological injury is very hard to quantify. I suffer pain every minute of every hour of every day," he said.

He also said that his talents as concertina player have been significantly impacted after the assault.

"I am limited in what I can do and how long I can play. You need to be able to play the full game - not come on for the last quarter of the game. I was more of a soloist but now I play with others.

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