““He stamped on my hands. He knew I was a musician, he knew I played the guitar. I had heel marks on my hands. There’s no doubt in my mind he hoped to end my music career”
Businessman Eugene Hanratty Snr was finally convicted of a brutal assault on environmental campaigner Martin McAllister – a full 10 years after the unprovoked attack.
Mr McAllister was left with life-changing injuries, including impaired eyesight and a haematoma on his brain, after Hanratty attacked him near his remote farm near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.
Having knocked Mr McAllister unconscious, cowardly Hanratty kicked, punched and repeatedly slammed a car door on the hands of his victim, who was unable to defend himself.
Hanratty (63), from Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, was once accused of cross-border fuel smuggling and had €2m in 12 bank accounts frozen by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
He always denied the claims made by CAB. However, when the case came to court in 2007 the judge was told a settlement had been reached between the Bureau and Mr Hanratty – a settlement that it was agreed would remain confidential.
And last week, following one of the longest and most bizarre criminal cases in Irish legal history – which saw a Garda officer tasked with investigating the 2012 assault repeatedly refuse to come to court – Eugene Hanratty Snr was finally brought to book for his shocking attack.
A jury at Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court unanimously convicted Hanratty Snr of assault causing harm to Mr McAllister – vindicating his brave victim’s refusal to drop the case.
The victim of the assault, Martin McAllister, speaking for the first time about the case, tells the Sunday World it was a “huge sense of relief” when the jury found Hanratty guilty.
“When the foreperson of the jury stood up and said the words, ‘we find the defendant guilty’ it was just a huge sense of relief,” says Mr McAllister.
“This has gone on for 10 years – it’s hard to believe. I thought I might never get justice but I was determined to see it out, no matter how long it took.
“The solicitor asked for Hanratty to be remanded on continuing bail but the judge refused and he was taken away in handcuffs. I never thought I’d see the day.
“Hanratty has lorded it over Crossmaglen for years but I refused to lie down and be bullied. I couldn’t back down. I couldn’t let him win.”
Martin says Hanratty became desperate in court – claiming five years after the incident that the victim had pulled a gun on him.
“I’d like to thank the inverted genius who thought it was a good idea to come up with the lie that I pulled a gun on Hanratty,” says Martin.
“He hadn’t mentioned this in any of his interviews with the police but decided to mention it five years later in court. That nonsense damaged his own defence.”
Mr McAllister says he was assaulted because he had challenged Mr Hanratty about allegations of diesel sludge dumping and in 2010 had walked with then PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, down the main street of Crossmaglen, raising the issue – something he told the court “made me very unpopular with certain people”.
Speaking about the November 2012 attack for the first time, Mr McAllister, a highly respected guitarist who has played with some of Ireland’s biggest stars, reveals he believes Hanratty deliberately set out to end his music career.
“I was driving out of my lane with my wife and Hanratty ambushed me, pulling his car – which had its full headlights on – across mine so I had to come to a stop. As soon as he stopped he hit the ground running. He had my car door open within seconds and he hit me so hard with something because I passed out. I hadn’t even got my seatbelt off.
“I fell back and he dragged me out of the passenger’s side. I can remember him trying to undo my seatbelt.
“He gave me a penalty kick to the side of the head, by that I mean he kicked my head as hard as he could. I felt none of this, my wife observed it though.
“He stamped on my hands. He knew I was a musician, he knew I played the guitar. I had heel marks on my hands. There’s no doubt in my mind he hoped to end my music career.
“Luckily, I am able to play the guitar again but it took ages. My hand injuries impacted on my dexterity for years.”
Not surprisingly, the attack – which took place right in front of his horrified wife – has had a lasting impact on his life.
“It’s had a serious impact for sure,” he says. “I have a titanium plate in my left eye, both eye sockets were broken in multiple places, my nose was broken and I was left with a massive haematoma on my brain.
“My vision is impaired for life and I have the same numb feeling on the left side of my face that you get when the dentist gives you novocaine before a filling.
“I won’t go into details, but worse than anything else is the impact it has had on my wife.”
Next Wednesday, Eugene Hanratty Snr, from Castleblayney Road, Crossmaglen, will be sentenced for the attack and faces a maximum of five years behind bars.
“I’ve to make an impact statement to the court,” says Martin, who says he’s not finished with Hanratty.
“He’s a millionaire, maybe even a multi-millionaire and I will be proceeding with a civil case against him,” says Mr McAllister.
“I believe he has property all over the country and even some in Dubai.”
But the court case will also send shockwaves through An Garda Siochana because of the behaviour of the investigating officer.
The fact the case was dragged out over three trials – the first one was in February 2016 – was mostly down to the fact investigating Garda officer, John Doherty, refused to attend court.
Two judges at separate trials tore strips off the officer but because of the live proceedings, those comments can only be reported now after Hanratty was found guilty.
Despite this, Martin McAllister says he has only good words to say for gardai.
“I’ve had a flood of journalists asking my opinion of the police and Garda John Doherty,” says Martin.
“I’m telling you now, the gardai did nothing wrong. They did everything they could. I would personally like to thank Sgt Tom Miller and his team from Castleblayney.
“I’d like to thank officers Ciaran Regan, Paul Everet, Brian Mohan, Alan Cunningham, Mick Duffy, Michael O’Donoghue and Nicola Doorley, who was extremely supportive of my wife.
“As for John Doherty, I’m taking legal advice about him currently but I’ll allow people to make up their own minds from the comments made by the previous trial judges.”
One judge told Garda Doherty that his conduct in evidence was “disgraceful” and would “make a mockery of the trial”, while another said that his non-appearance in court was “completely unacceptable”.
This was the third trial of Hanratty Snr. The court had heard Garda Doherty might not be available during the week of the case but the judge said the trial would continue. Garda Doherty did show up in court and gave evidence.
During a previous trial in 2016, Garda Doherty, based in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, tried to introduce “third- or fourth-hand evidence” that supported the version of events put forward by Hanratty Snr about the origins of his dispute with Mr McAllister.
Having sent the jury out of the room six years ago, Judge Martin Nolan commented: “This is disgraceful conduct on behalf of this garda, to come into court and seek to adduce to a jury third- or fourth-hand information.
“Under no circumstance can rumours go to a jury or theories that are concocted in the dark.”
In February 2016, Judge Patricia Ryan strongly rebuked Garda Doherty for failing to come to court to give evidence against Hanratty Snr.
After being asked by Judge Ryan to give sworn evidence on Garda Doherty’s non-appearance, Detective Garda Michael O’Donoghue told the court that Garda Doherty had sent him a text saying he would not be coming to court and that Mr McAllister and Hanratty should “sort it out amongst themselves”.
Judge Ryan said she would give Garda Doherty until that afternoon to appear in court but he didn’t appear. The next day he also failed to appear in court despite another request from gardai to do so.
In the meantime, a uniformed officer arrived at Garda Doherty’s home in Carrickmacross and personally issued him with a summons to appear in court.
During this trial a bench warrant was issued and later rescinded when Garda Doherty finally entered the witness box.
Eugene Hanratty Snr will discover on Wednesday what his sentence will be for the assault.