Living in fear  | 

'I will never forgive him' says dad of two as his cousin is jailed for feud car attack

The court heard there had been “bad blood” between the two cousins over a woman

Eamon Stokes was sentenced to three years in prison

Liam Cosgrove

A father of two has spoken of how he believed he was going to die seconds before a car was used to run him down in a feud related incident in Co Longford three years ago.

Gerard Donohoe was speaking after his first cousin Eamon Stokes (21) of Cluain Na Sibhe, Killashee, Co Longford was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to assault causing harm and possession of a hatchet following an incident at Pound Street, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford on January 7, 2019.

A co accused Alan Whelan (27) yesterday pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Mr Donoghue after it emerged Whelan had been at the wheel alongside Stokes who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

The court heard there had been “bad blood” between the two cousins over a woman with the pair inadvertently coming across each other less than half an hour earlier while collecting their social welfare from a local post office.

CCTV footage showed Stokes turning around to spit on the floor when seeing Mr Donoghue and his partner in the queue behind him.

Gerard Donoghue

The victim was spotted standing outside a shop shortly afterwards while his partner went into a shop to buy a drink.

Moments later, a Fiat Punto could be seen suddenly darting across the road, mounting a pavement and pinning the 27-year-old between the car and a wall.

The court heard the car then reversed and tried to strike Mr Donoghue for a second time before both of its occupants fled the scene on foot.

A hatchet was subsequently found in the well of the front passenger seat where Stokes had been sitting along with a mobile phone belonging to the accused.

Gardaí later found photographs on Stokes’ phone which, Judge Keenan Johnson, established a firm link between the accused and the offending vehicle.

During Stokes' sentencing hearing, the court heard a key factor in the ensuing garda investigation which followed, came from Stokes’ brother William Stokes Jnr.

In a statement given to gardaí on July 19, six months after the incident, Mr Stokes told of how his brother had returned from the post office to reveal he had met the accused inside.

After returning to their home on the outskirts of Edgeworthstown, Mr Stokes told gardaí how he heard Whelan state he “would stick a hatchet in the head of the victim”.

Mr Stokes said he then spotted the two men change their clothing before the pair jumped into a Fiat Punto with Whelan getting into the driver’s seat and Stokes in the front passenger’s seat.

The court heard Stokes had over 30 previous convictions, including three for assault, four for possession of an article, seven for criminal damage, five for public order and 11 for theft and burglary offences.

It was also revealed Stokes had also breached a bond to be of good behaviour in relation to a public order offence committed in November 2020, some ten months after receiving a three year sentence with the final two years suspended for assaulting another man in August 2016.

“There can be little doubt that this was an extremely serious assault perpetrated in broad daylight,” said Judge Johnson, adding it was “difficult to understand the mentality” which prompted Stokes to agree to his involvement in a “common design” to assault Mr Donoghue.

He sentenced Stokes to three years in prison alongside a six month consecutive prison term for breaching the terms of the previous suspended sentence which was handed down in January 2020.

An accompanying charge for the possession of a hatchet was taken into consideration.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Donoghue said he has been left constantly looking over his shoulder for fear he may be targeted again.

“This (feud) will never be over,” he said, revealing also how he has received two separate threats on his life in the aftermath of the incident.

“I thought it was the end and I will never forgive him for what he done to me.

“My girlfriend was six months pregnant at the time and had only left me seconds before that to go into a shop.

“What he got (three years) he’s laughing at, but I will never be able to forget that day as long as I live.”

Stokes’ co-accused Alan Whelan has been remanded on continuing bail ahead of sentencing on May 17.

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