'Garda informer' shot innocent young woman in neck as she watched TV
A self-confessed garda informer was jailed for 11 years for a shooting which left a woman fighting for her life with a bullet wound to the neck.
Ciara Sheehan (21) admitted that the shooting left her fearing she was going to die - and, even after her successful recovery, with a large scar on her neck.
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain warned Gavin Sheehan that it was a miracle Ms Sheehan hadn't been killed that night.
"The level of criminality and culpability is huge," he said.
"This man mercilessly and deliberately took a gun and fired it into a dwelling house that was lit and occupied."
Judge O'Donnabhain also said it was "reprehensible behaviour" that Mr Sheehan had sent a Christmas card to his victim from prison, an act which had greatly upset her.
"There is not a shred of remorse. I have been looking for remorse (in him) but I do not find it," he said.
He imposed a 14-year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final three years.
Mr Sheehan has 72 previous convictions, 14 of which were for violent crimes before the Circuit Criminal Court.
In defence submissions, it was claimed that Mr Sheehan had been a garda informer in Cork, supplying information about drugs, guns and general criminality.
However, Det Sergeant Denis Lynch said it was a matter he could not comment on.
"I am not in a position to answer that question," he said.
Mr Sheehan (30), a father of a 10-month-old child, was convicted last November of the reckless discharge of a firearm and assault causing serious harm to Ms Sheehan by a Cork Circuit Criminal Court jury.
Mr Sheehan, who is no relation to the injured party, was convicted by unanimous jury vote after a three-and-a-half-hour deliberation following a week long trial last November.
He had pleaded not guilty before Judge Sean O'Donnabhain and the jury of seven women and four men to a total of four charges.
The defendant of Laurel Ridge, Shanakiel, Cork denied assault causing serious harm to Ms Sheehan on May 15 last at Hollywood Estate off Cork's Blarney Road.
He also denied the discharge of a firearm on May 15 at Hollywood Estate, being reckless as to whether any person was injured or not.
However, the jury convicted him by unanimous vote on all four charges.
The trial heard that there had been a long-running dispute between Mr Sheehan and members of the family of Ms Sheehan's boyfriend, the Cunninghams.
Just hours before the shooting, Mr Sheehan had been involved in a confrontation in a fast food restaurant with the victim's boyfriend, Dillon Cunningham.
Ms Sheehan suffered a serious bullet wound to her neck as she sat in a property later that night watching TV alongside her boyfriend.
The young shop worker and Cork College of Commerce student was inside a friend's home when she was injured shortly after 12.30am.
She had to be rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH), where she underwent emergency surgery.
Ms Sheehan spoke of her shock at realising precisely what had happened to her seconds after she heard a window in the property being smashed.
"I felt my throat getting all tight and my face was burning," she said.
"I put my hand up to my neck and it was covered in blood. I realised I was shot."
She went to CUH where she underwent surgery twice as the bullet was stuck in her neck.
The young woman subsequently remained in hospital for six days.
Dillon Cunningham said he heard a bang as they sat and watched TV.
He said there was then a "mad scramble in the house".
Mr Cunningham said that Ciara collapsed and he brought her out to his mother's car to drive her to CUH.
He was so concerned for her welfare he did not even want to wait for an ambulance.
Linda Casey, Dillon's mother, said: "Ciara turned to me and said: 'Linda I've been shot, I've been shot' and then she collapsed."
"Dillon got my keys and half dragged, half carried her out to the car. She was saying: 'Call my mam, call my mam' to me."
Ms Sheehan is now making a good recovery from her neck injury.
The defendant had also denied possession at his Laurel Ridge home of Smith & Wesson Model 6096 semi-automatic pistol with a reasonable inference that he did not have it for a lawful purpose.
Mr Sheehan was also charged with possession of a round of 9mm calibre ammunition, with a similar inference that he did not have it for a lawful purpose.
The charges were brought under the Firearms Act, 1964 and the Firearms and Offences Weapons Act, 1990.