A BANDON woman walking home alone from her 19th birthday celebrations was violently attacked by a 24-year-old man who stalked her first and later told her she would get an arrow in the back of her head if she screamed.
‘She should be able to walk through the streets of Bandon on her birthday,’ Judge Helen Boyle said as she sentenced Daniel Szymczyk to four years with the last year suspended at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Over 100 hours of CCTV footage from Bandon was harvested and analysed, the defendant was identified, and Det Garda Peter Nolan said the accused could be seen actively stalking the young woman, hiding behind cars and ducking into doorways as he followed her prior to the attack.
Detective Garda Nolan said that after 3am on Sunday, December 1st 2019 the woman was walking home alone from Bandon after celebrating her birthday that Saturday night.
‘She became aware of a male, not known to her, watching her from the footpath on the other side of the road. She felt uneasy and took out her mobile phone to ring a friend. The defendant ran across the road and grabbed her phone from her hand and flung it on the ground, smashing it. He told her repeatedly he would walk her home. She repeatedly declined and as the injured party said, then he really flipped.
‘He pushed her to the ground with force and punched her once in the head with his fist. Her attacker pulled her off the ground. The injured party began to scream at the windows and doors of adjoining houses. He held her against him with his left hand and put his right hand over her mouth to stifle her cries for help. He remained in possession of her handbag.
‘He made her walk with him, forcefully holding her, and brought her down the street in the direction from which she had come. He told her if she shouted or made a noise she would get an arrow through the back of her head. The injured party was terrified and in complete fear of the attacker,’ Det. Garda Nolan said.
She saw three youths in the distance and waited until they were within better sight and earshot to shout for help. Again the defendant pushed her violently to the ground where she struck her head against the footpath.
‘The defendant kicked her with force in to the face once. He then fled in possession of her handbag,’ Det. Garda Nolan said.
The three youths assisted the victim, called the gardaí and walked with her to the station 300 metres away.
He was arrested on December 13th at his home in Bandon and questioned and he made some admissions. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to charges including, assault causing harm, false imprisonment and robbery.
Det Garda Nolan said that Szymczyk, who moved to Bandon six years ago with his parents and was working in a local factory, had six previous convictions but they were all for minor offences and nothing as serious as these offences.
Ben Shorten, defence barrister, said the 24-year-old Polish man had worked as a factory operator and that in the context of minor previous convictions this behaviour was an aberration. The defendant had consumed a 0.7 bottle of vodka that night, as well as a number of cans of beer and a gramme of amphetamine.
Judge Boyle said: ‘You stalked this lady through the streets, attacked and robbed her, knocked her to ground. You walked with her for 160 m and put her fear for her life.
‘She should have been celebrating her birthday instead of this sustained, vicious and inexplicable assault. This lady could never have been any threat to you, but you assaulted her while she was on the ground.
‘You apologised unreservedly and said you were ashamed of your actions. You have a good family who support you and you have a good work record but it appears you have a difficulty with alcohol and drugs.’
The victim impact statement was not read in court but Judge Boyle referred to it during sentencing and said the injured party felt she should feel safe in her town and surroundings but is now left with a constant thought she is being followed and that the same thing could happen again.
Judge Boyle said she believed the appropriate sentence was one of four years but she suspended the final 12 months in the light of Szymczyk’s guilty plea which had saved his victim the trauma of having to testify in a trial.