Thursday 23 May 2019

'I'm afraid all the time now' - assault victim tells court

Sligo native (25) left with life-altering injuries after attack when he went to the aid of a woman in Galway

Ann Healy

A Sligo barman had a quarter of his skull surgically removed to allow his brain to swell - in a bid to minimise brain damage - after he was assaulted while trying to protect a young woman on a Galway street.

Wesley Wilders told Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday that he had a great job in Busker Brown’s pub in Galway city, had a lovely girlfriend, was about to choose which college course to do, and was looking forward to celebrating his 25th birthday when his whole life was suddenly turned upside down by an unprovoked, one-punch assault.

He said he could not forgive Sultan Sarumi (19), who had ruined his life and left him with life-threatening injuries.

Sarumi, with addresses in Gleann Rua, Ballybane, and Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6, pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Wilders, causing him harm, at Bohermore on October 7 last year.

Sergeant Noel Sweeney, prosecuting, said the accused fled the scene after the assault and did everything he could to evade Gardai on the night.

Mr Wilders hit his head off the ground following the punch and never regained consciousness at the scene.

A passer-by placed him in the recovery position.

"After seeing the victim lying on the ground, he (Sarumi) fled the scene without any regard for the man, who suffered serious life-threatening injuries," Sgt. Sweeney said.

Gardai had to launch an extensive search on the night to locate the culprit.

Sgt. Sweeney said that following his arrest later that night, Sarumi showed no remorse and tried to blame the victim.

He claimed he had sustained injuries while being arrested, but in actual fact, he had injured himself while on the run that night from Gardai.

Sgt. Sweeney said Mr Wilders suffered a fracture to his skull and had spent six weeks in Beaumont Hospital before being transferred to Sligo University Hospital.

He said the victim had a large section of his skull removed to allow his brain to swell in the immediate aftermath and a titanium plate was fitted to seal the area in September.

A medical report handed into court, stated Mr Wilders had a large visible scar across his skull as a result of the operation.

His speech is sometimes slurred and his gait unsteady due to right-side weakness in his body, the report stated.

Sgt. Sweeney said Sarumi was well known to Gardai in Galway over the years and he had seven previous convictions for drug dealing, criminal damage, robberies, and one for another serious assault for which he received a three-month prison term last April.

Defence barrister, Garry McDonald said Sarumi had come to Ireland from Nigeria when he was nine years old and was estranged from his family.

He said his client had expressed remorse during his final Garda interview.

Mr Wilders, who is a native of Strandhill, Sligo, read his own victim impact statement into evidence.

He became emotional on several occasions as he recalled his injuries, particularly how part of his skull had to be removed to allow his brain to swell.

"All I was trying to do was help a lady. I ended up in ICU fighting for my life and was in a coma for two weeks.

"I couldn't talk or move or recognise anyone. I went down to seven and a half stone.

"I'm afraid all the time now. My mother had to give up her job to mind me. I broke up with my girlfriend.

"I cannot work any more. I'm so afraid to go outside the house. All my past memories are gone.

"I don't know if I will ever recover because my right side is so weak.

"I don't know if I will ever get back to the way I was before," he sobbed.

Addressing the accused, he said: "I really hope you do not hurt anyone else like you have hurt me.

"You will never realise the suffering you have put me through. How can I forgive?" he asked.

Mr Wilders explained he now lived in a constant state of fear, even while in his own home.

Judge Rory McCabe said the offence carried a maximum five-year sentence and given Sarumi's extensive range of previous convictions, some of which involved violence, the headline sentence in this case, he said, was five years.

The judge noted from a prison governor's report, that Sarumi had been in an altercation with other prisoners while awaiting sentence and his involvement with the probation service had been superficial.

The early plea of guilty, he said, was a mitigating factor because it had spared the victim the trauma of having to give evidence at a trial.

Noting Sarumi was deemed by the probation service to be at a moderately high risk of reoffending, Judge McCabe said the appropriate sentence was three years and six months in prison with the final six months suspended for 12 months.

Sligo Champion