Jekyll and Hyde | 

The secret life of vile ex-garda convicted of brutally assaulting women

Stephen Cooper forced a woman to take part in a strip search after he claimed she had stolen drugs from him. He told her ‘I used to be a Garda, I know how to do this’
Former garda Stephen Cooper leaving court after a hearing

Former garda Stephen Cooper leaving court after a hearing

Stephen Cooper used photos of an unsuspecting Rosanna Davison and John Kavanagh

Stephen Cooper used photos of an unsuspecting Rosanna Davison and John Kavanagh

Stephen Cooper used photos of an unsuspecting Rosanna Davison

Stephen Cooper used photos of an unsuspecting Rosanna Davison

John Kavanagh

John Kavanagh

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

A vile ex-garda convicted of brutally assaulting two women has been placed on protection on the G3 sex offenders’ landing in the Midlands Prison to serve out a six-year stint behind bars.

A Sunday World investigation into sicko ex-copper Stephen Cooper – who forced one of his victims to submit to an internal examination with his bare hand – can today reveal how:

  • During a previous stint in the Midlands for drug possession and perverting the course of justice, Cooper was accused of orchestrating an assault on himself to try to force a move to an open prison
  • On being released from jail for those offences, Cooper set himself up as gym gear provider ‘Grip Gym Gear’ – posting images on his website of unwitting celebrities, including former Miss World Rosanna Davison and coach John Kavanagh using his gym gear;
  • The 37-year-old also posed alongside unwitting charity workers belonging to the ‘Suicide or Survive’ organisation to bolster his credentials as a respectable businessman;
  • And he set up a LinkedIn profile detailing his career on which he erased his history as a disgraced garda and instead highlighted a four-month stint volunteering with the Peter McVerry Trust and his support for animal welfare, education, health and human rights.

But Cooper’s self-portrayal as a respectable businessman hid the darker side of a character that now sees him housed on protection alongside some of the most notorious sex offenders in the country.

On Tuesday, the shocking details emerged of how Cooper and sicko pal Stephen McGrath carried out drug and alcohol assaults on two women, which culminated in one woman being bundled into a van and told she would be driven to the mountains and buried.

During the ordeal in April 2021, former Garda Cooper forced a woman to take part in a “strip search” after he claimed she had stolen drugs from him.

Cooper threatened the woman and then told her: “I used to be a garda, I know how to do this” and “if you weren’t a thief, I wouldn’t have to do this”.

After forcing the crying woman to strip, Cooper then inserted his fingers into her body and repeatedly told her to shut up.

This assault took place at a house in Naas, Co Kildare, at the tail end of a four-day drink and drug binge that had begun in a hotel elsewhere in the county.

Cooper, his accomplice Stephen McGrath (37) and a second woman then moved to a house in Ashfield, Kilteel Road, Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

When the two men began accusing this woman of stealing cocaine from them, McGrath began a prolonged and vicious assault, kicking and punching the woman repeatedly and tearing clumps of her hair out.

Both men told her at one point that they were going to bring her up the mountains and bury her.

They then tried to lift her into the back of a van but she began screaming and kicking out and they stopped and instead put her in the footwell of the front seat.

Cooper handed McGrath a small multi-tool knife and McGrath told the woman “I am going to stick that in your head”.

Cooper said to McGrath: “You have to take care of her or we are both f***ed”, prosecuting counsel, Edward Doocey BL, told the court.

McGrath drove off with the woman as she begged him to let her live and told him she had a child.

She later told gardai that “every time she opened her mouth, he punched her”.

He also pulled down her trousers and underwear and stuck his finger aggressively into her anus.

At their sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Martin Nolan said that the men’s behaviour was cruel beyond extreme, reprehensible and shameful.

“To say they ill-used these women would be a gross understatement. They terrified them, they threatened them, they assaulted them,” he said.

Cooper, of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm of the first woman at a place in Naas.

He also pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to the second woman at Rathcoole, making a threat to kill her and to production of an article capable of inflicting harm.

Cooper was previously jailed in 2014 for perverting the course of justice and drug dealing after he allowed a friend to take the blame when gardai found the drug LSD during a search at the Electric Picnic music festival.

According to his LinkedIn, it was during the run-up to his sentencing that he volunteered with the Peter McVerry Trust – a move he believed would have garnered him some favour at sentencing.

Instead, he was hit with a three-year sentence.

While on protective custody in the Midlands, Cooper was subjected to an assault by another inmate, Ger Brown, who was convicted of assault causing serious harm in the Circuit Court and sentenced to three years in prison.

Brown later unsuccessfully appealed the sentence to the Supreme Court claiming Cooper had asked to be assaulted in an effort to be transferred to an open prison.

Brown accepted he hit Cooper on the top of the head, using a mug in a sock.

But he claimed Cooper had suggested he pretend to attack him while Cooper was being escorted to the gym and alleged Cooper had said “don’t hold back” and “just make sure there is blood.”

He claimed Cooper told him in return he would give Brown sensitive documents and information, plus €1,000 cash.

After his release from prison, Cooper set up Grip Gym Gear, a company supplying bespoke steel gym equipment to health and fitness centres across Dublin.

On the company’s Facebook page, he posted images of unsuspecting celebrities like Rosanna Davison using his equipment in an effort to boost sales.

On May 25, 2019, Cooper supplied spin bikes to the Suicide or Survive charity for a fundraiser in the capital.

The charity later posted a picture of two staff members with Cooper thanking the ‘amazing Stephen from Grip Gym Gear’ for his support — not knowing Cooper’s past or that in a few short months he would again unravel and revert to his chaotic drug-taking lifestyle.

Contacted this week, a staff member with the charity said it had no knowledge of Cooper’s background.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, Maurice Coffey SC, defending, said after serving time for the earlier offences Cooper got his life together, married and set up a business.

He said his marriage broke down and his business was hit by Covid, and Cooper fell back into drug use and his life spiralled out of control.

Sentencing Cooper and McGrath, Judge Martin Nolan said both men had entered guilty pleas which were practical indications of their remorse and shame and saved the victims the trauma of coming to court.

“I doubt either man would come before this court again for anything remotely as serious,” he said.

He said both men came from good families and have brought great shame to their families.

He sentenced Cooper to total of six years in prison and McGrath to a total of eight years.

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