‘I’ll never forget the mad glare in his eyes … I thought he was going to kill me’
A ENNISKEANE man has described in court how he feared for his life when he woke up to see a masked intruder standing over him armed with a yard brush as he lay on a couch at home after suffering a dislocated shoulder at work the day before.
Richard Shorten (57) told how he genuinely thought he was going to die when he awoke to find Dubliner, Thomas O’Neill (45) standing over him in the early hours of December 22nd last as his home at Derrigra, Enniskeane.
In court this week, O’Neill was given an eight-year jail term, with the final two years suspended.
‘To my horror I woke to see a masked stranger standing over me,’ explained Mr Shorten. ‘I saw he had my heavy duty yard brush in his hands. I shouted at him. Without warning or reason, he lifted the yard brush in both hands above his head and struck me twice with it with force – he was aiming for my head,’ he added.
‘Thankfully I managed to raise my good arm over myself to protect my head from the blows. He struck me twice (but) the ceiling and my good arm took most of the force. I will never forget the mad glare in his eyes as he struck me – I really thought he was going to kill me.’
Det Garda Kevin Heffernan told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Mr Shorten managed to raise the alarm and two of his adult children, Gerry (25) and Caroline (20) woke upstairs and came down and rang gardaí as O’Neill, also known as Thomas Savage Jnr, fled the house.
They pursued him and saw him run down a laneway by a nearby church. They were joined by a number of locals before gardaí from Bandon, Dunmanway and Clonakilty arrived promptly on the scene, and arrested O’Neill on suspicion of aggravated burglary.
O’Neill, who pleaded guilty last month to aggravated burglary, was caught on CCTV at the church running from the Shorten house, but he made no admissions when he was arrested and questioned about the break-in, said Det Garda Heffernan.
He said that O’Neill got nothing in the burglary, but his crime had a huge impact on the Shorten family as he proceeded to reveal when he read out a Victim Impact Statement from Richard Shorten, who catalogued the effect of the crime.
‘I will never forget this night. I saw adult members of my family cry with fear and shock. The gardaí had to get a doctor to sedate my wife. This incident ruined Christmas for us and we struggled through it, but couldn’t forget the events of the night.’
‘We live a quiet and normal life. This man crashed into our lives that night and he hasn’t left our lives since. My family are not yet over this. None of them will stay in the house alone for any period of time,’ said Mr Shorten.
‘Any small noise at all now at night wakes us and this attack is the first thing that comes into our minds. I don’t know why this man targeted us and our home. In a way, maybe it’s better he picked us rather than someone more vulnerable.’
The court heard that O’Neill, a native of Swords in Co Dublin, but with an address at the time at Haven Cottage, Farnivane, Bandon, had written a letter of apology in which he expressed his remorse for the upset he caused while he had also handed over €2,000 in compensation.
Det Garda Heffernan accepted a suggestion by defence barrister, Ray Boland BL, that his client had been out for Christmas drinks with his landlord earlier that night, and was drunk when he broke into the Shorten house. It was not a case of him travelling from Dublin to break in.
Det Garda Heffernan said that O’Neill was on bail for a similar offence at the time when he had 20 previoius convictions, including one from Cork Circuit Criminal Court in 1999, where he was sentenced to 12 years for larceny and firearms offences.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin accepted that O’Neill was a heroin addict who was currently on a methadone programme and while he hadn’t travelled from Dublin to commit the break-in, he had broken a lock and armed himself with a yard brush so it was a deliberate and determined crime.
He said that it was an aggravating factor, as was the fact that the break-in took place at night and he had put a man in fear while his previous record and the fact that he committed this offence while on bail were also factors he would have take into account.
However, O’Neill had to be given credit for his guilty plea which spared Mr Shorten and his familly the trauma of having to relive the entire ordeal by coming to court to give evidence, and he believed the appropriate sentence was eight years with the final two years suspended.