Garda to be sentenced later for coercive control of his girlfriendPadraig Conlon 26 Jul 2022
By Sonya McLean
A terminally-ill woman has outlined how her former partner, a garda, told her the only reason he had visited her while in hospital was to “watch you bleed to death”.
The 43-year-old woman was giving her victim impact statement in the sentence hearing of the 42-year-old man who harassed, threatened, assaulted, stole from and controlled the woman for over four years after they met online in 2017.
The court heard that the man sent the woman over 30,000 messages over those years and in one 14-hour period, in July 2018, sent her 652 messages, amounting to one message every 90 seconds.
The messages were described in court as threatening, degrading, vile and abusive. In one message he described her as being “riddled with cancer”, in another, while she was on holiday without him, he said he hoped she would “get raped and bleed”.
In another, after they had a row while on holiday together, he messaged her the following morning and said she was “flaunting your body around the pool” calling her a “dirtbox” and a “scumbag”.
The man threatened to stick a knife in her in one voice message.
He also also took photos of her naked, unbeknownst to her and threatened to post them online.
The man pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of coercive control in relation to the woman within the state on dates between January 1, 2019 and November 30, 2020. The law for the offence came into effect in January 2019.
The guilty plea was accepted on the basis of full facts in relation to a further 19 counts including harassment, assault causing harm, criminal damage, threats to cause criminal damage, endangerment, theft and threats to kill.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, joined the gardaí in 2000 but was suspended from duty in March 2021, following a search of his home arising out of this investigation.
Yesterday Sean Gillane SC, defending, confirmed that he will resign from An Garda Siochana.
Detective Inspector Cormac Brennan told Shane Costello SC, prosecuting, that an investigation was launched against the man after he made a complaint about one of the woman’s relatives and handed in his own phone to allow for it to be examined in the context of that allegation.
Officers became concerned that there was an abusive relationship between himself and the victim and they arranged to meet the woman. She later made a statement of complaint, which ran to 280 pages.
The book of evidence also includes 1GB of electronic data, communication between him and the woman, which counsel said equates to 33,000 pages of information or almost two volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The woman took to the stand to read her victim impact statement in which she outlined how, after an initial normal relationship with a “charming” and “funny” man, he “slowly and surely” broke her down.
“I was not just fighting cancer. I was up against a monster who would take away any chance I had of surviving,” she said.
She said she couldn’t battle cancer and a war with him. “I always thought if I could get better, I could get away from him.”
“I believed he was going to kill me so many times. I can feel the weight of him on my body, choking me, ripping out my hair from the roots. I was afraid to show vulnerability as that was when he attacked me the most,” the woman continued.
She said he was aware of how weak and sick she was from chemotherapy and described him stealing her cancer medication, knowing that she couldn’t afford to replace it.
She described an occasion of driving to hospital with the man in the passenger seat. He became verbally abusive and she pulled over to let him to get out. He then took her hospital bag with him.
Later he came to the hospital. He told her that the only reason he was there was so he could “watch you bleed to death”. He began to record her and she asked that he be removed from the hospital.
“The was the last straw…..that is the day he broke me,” she said.
The woman said she felt like the man knew what was going on in her mind because he had access to her phone.
“It felt like my mind was broken glass. I didn’t know what was right or wrong anymore because he was breaking my mind,” the woman continued.
She said she can no longer walk past a garda or a garda station without feeling physically sick and described how “the process to get justice has taken its toll”.
“My time is very precious as I don’t know how much time I have left,” the woman said before she added that the mental abuse she suffered was worse than the violence. “He was beyond evil with his words”.
“I thought having cancer was the worst thing that ever happened me but I believe he is worse than any cancer. I couldn’t endure any more pain and torture from this man,” the woman said before she added that she had considered taking her own life.
“He has robbed me of so much that I cannot get back. I was ashamed of what I put up with from him. The shame and judgement from other people allows the abuser to get away with so much,” the woman said.
“Women are afraid to tell the truth. I have survived him with cancer, so I want others to know they can too.” The woman concluded her statement by encouraging other people in a similar position to come forward.
Judge Martin Nolan adjourned the case overnight to allow him to consider an application by Mr Gillane to adjourn the case pending the preparation of a psychological report. He said if he refuses the adjournment he will proceed to sentence.
The man was remanded in custody pending that decision after counsel said his client was prepared to have his bail revoked.
Mr Gillane asked Judge Nolan to accept that his client had given 20 years of service to An Garda Síochána during which he did good and difficult work but accepted that the man has “brought dishonour to himself and the organisation”.
“Being a garda was something that he always wanted to be and it was regarded by him as a great achievement and very, very important to him” . He added that it was an essential part of his identity and sense of self.
Mr Gillane said there was nothing in his client’s work and upbringing “either personally, professionally or otherwise” for anyone to “suspect or conclude” that he would end up in court for something as upsetting or serious as this.
Counsel said his client had had long standing unaddressed mental health difficulties including depression and anxiety and said he was referred to a GP for help as an older teenager.
“People can, for a period of time, seek to keep the cork on the bottle, can operate both professionally and socially that can give no reason for concern but eventually the cork comes out of the bottle and long overdue issues emerge,” Mr Gillane said. He added that in this case the issues that emerged contributed to devastating consequences for the victim.
He asked Judge Nolan to take into account the fact that his client has pleaded guilty, has said he is responsible for what he has done and there is a public acknowledgement of what he has done.
Mr Gillane said his client had “not put a foot wrong” before this offence and is now “stripped of everything that was important to him”. He asked the court to consider adjourning the case to allow for a psychological report.
Det Insp Brennan said that while it was a normal relationship from the outset, it quickly descended into assaults, criminal damage and threats to kill.
“She was tormented and tortured physically and emotionally by him,” Det Insp Brennan said before he outlined the number of text messages, WhatsApp, voice messages and videos sent by the man to the woman from 2017 to the time of the investigation in 2021.
In 2017, there was a total of 5,398 interactions between the pair between May 2017 and December 2017, 4,351 of which were sent by the man to the woman.
On November 23 that year, there were 399 text messages sent over 10.5 hours, 11 of those messages came from the woman.
In 2018, 8,806 messages were sent and on one day he sent her 628 messages, while in 2019, 15,577 messages were sent.
The following year, 23,920 messages passed between the pair, 20,108 of which were sent by the man and on March 31, 2020 he sent 810 messages over an 18-hour period.
Det Insp Brennan said that these messages do not include the thousands and thousands of phone calls the woman also got from the man.
He said one of the man’s goals was “to isolate the woman from family and friends” and to take away her “support network” at a time when she was going through treatment for terminal cancer.
He said the man terrorised the woman’s friends and family who felt he was capable of doing or saying anything about them.
Det Insp Brennan outlined some of what he termed the “abusive, threatening and degrading messages” the man sent to the woman and to her family and friends.
He often referred to her being “riddled with cancer” and at one point told her to “kill yourself if you like, as cancer is going to kill you anyway”.
She had set up a GoFundMe page to allow for her to raise funds for specialist treatment and in some messages he accused her of begging. Det Insp Brennan said the man was annoyed that the woman would not allow him to access the money raised through her campaign.
The man told her he hoped she died of cancer and the detective inspector said she received a “litany of text messages, all of which were abusive, used foul language and had aspirations that she will die in pain, die screaming on the operating theatre”.
He said the woman felt if she did what the man wanted her to do, it would put an end to the abuse he was giving her family and friends.
“If she went against him there would be a campaign and reign of terror on her family and friends. She had to endure his behaviour to save them,” Det Insp Brennan said.
He outlined incidences where the man stole the woman’s house keys and car keys and caused criminal damage to her home. He took naked photographs of her unbeknownst to her and threatened to put them online or send them to Facebook friends.
He demanded she delete certain male friends as her Facebook friends and sent threatening voice notes that he would “break up” her car. He threw a brick at her window when she refused to answer her phone one night while she was in bed.
During one incident in November 2017, he followed her in his car and as she was driving onto the slipway on the motorway, he tried to cut in front of her while shouting abuse at her.
In October 2018, there was a huge volume of text messages – over 700 in one day. The woman ultimately messaged him with an emoji of “hands placed in a surrendered position”, Mr Costelloe said with the text: “I surrender. I can’t do this anymore”.
The messaging continued from the man again referring to her dying a painful death.
In the summer of 2019, he assaulted her after she refused to allow him into the shower with her. He dragged her from the shower and punched and kicked her. She ran downstairs while trying to get dressed and he continued to kick her as she went down the stairs.
She ultimately got dressed, managed to get outside and a woman she knew, who happened to be driving past, brought her to a relative’s home. She had a footprint mark on her back.
The following August, he sent her a voice message threatening to stick a knife in her and days later he assaulted her again by attempting to choke her. Another assault involved him holding her up against a wall, choking her and pulling out some of her hair.
During another assault the following month, the woman feared the man would kill her and she climbed out a window to escape her home. A neighbour who heard the attack had already called 999 and the gardaí arrived shortly afterwards.
The woman stated in her victim impact statement: “I was one of the strongest girls you could ever meet. I grew up always believing I would never let a man treat me badly or be violent towards me”.
She said she could never understand why women would put up with such behaviour, but added: “Now I have walked in their shoes, I understand that they didn’t have a choice.”
She said what she had previously only seen in horror movies “suddenly became my life”. She said the man took away her human rights, her dignity and made her life a living hell.
She said the man told her straight away he was a garda and that made her trust him. He was a “very funny, charming guy, pretended to be the perfect gentleman”.
They established they had a mutual friend but he later used this friend to get information out of her that she said that he then used “to charm his way into my life and into my affections”.
The woman said they became very close, very quickly and had intimate conversations but he later used these “to twist and emotionally blackmail me if I was ever to leave him”.
She said he terrified her family so much with the power he had and threatened them. She said he used his position in the garda to his advantage to intimidate herself and her family. “Everyone was so afraid of the power he had”.