We snapped the 47-year-old murderer – who is entering the final stages of his life sentence in Mountjoy Prison’s Training Unit – mingling with unsuspecting students at Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education on Wednesday.
Cronin is understood to be attending a course in Sound Engineering at the college, paid for by the taxpayer as part of a programme to upgrade his skills ahead of his full release.
The Sunday World confronted the Limerick killer on his return to the Training Unit later in the day, but he refused to speak with us.
Cronin was aiming a gun at his wife ‘Biddy’ Collins at the Henry Cecil Bar and Disco in Limerick in 2001 when his hand got knocked and he instead fired a bullet straight through Georgina O’Donnell’s (pictured below) eye. The innocent 20-year-old was fatally wounded and died the next day.
Cronin, then living on Hyde Avenue in Limerick, pleaded not guilty to the murder of Georgina, from St Mary’s Park in Limerick, in the early hours of May 2, 1998.
He claimed the gun had gone off accidentally, but the court rejected this claim and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was also found guilty of having a handgun with intent to endanger life, and unlawful possession of the gun.
Sentencing Cronin to life for the murder and 10 years for possessing the handgun to run concurrently, Mr Justice Patrick Smith said the prisoner’s record was “not very good’’ and he had a number of previous convictions for assault.
Garda Insp Gerard Mahon told the court Cronin had served 10 months for possessing an offensive weapon, a year for assault and 10 months for criminal damage.
Cronin had a reputation as one of Limerick’s most violent and erratic criminals.
In a statement, signed by his wife, which was read out in court it was revealed that he had subjected her to nine years of horrendous violence prior to the murder. The statement, which Gardai said was made by Cronin’s wife Angela ‘Biddy’ Collins, listed a series of attacks during the marriage.
She claimed Cronin stabbed her while she was heavily pregnant and then walked away while she bled on the side of the street. And that, on another occasion, he threw her out of the second storey window of their home after a row.
Mrs Cronin claimed in evidence to the court that she did not make the statement, but Gardaí said she was too frightened to speak out.
On the night of the shooting, according to the statement, Ms Collins told Gardaí: “He said in the disco he was going away to get tablets. I asked him to stay and he head-butted me in the face.”
And when Cronin returned he said to her: “I’m going to sort you out now.”
Ms Collins said she saw a gun in her husband’s hand. “He pointed it at me. I think it was me he meant to hit.”