Offaly man Ciaran Murphy died twice, was placed in an induced coma for three months and had so many surgeries he lost count.
He spent three years in hospital after the attack at his cottage home outside Rhode in 2015.
This week, a court heard the attack was carried out by
drug dealer Shaun Groome and accomplice David Keena.
Still bearing the scars and blisters caused by 96 per cent burns from the neck down, Ciaran, who also lost both his ears in the attack, declined to be photographed for this interview carried out earlier this year.
Requesting that the
instead use a picture of him from ‘before’, the 31-year-old said he wanted to explain how he survived so his seven-old-son Nicky will know he “is the reason I am alive”.
“The doctors told me I should be dead … and in the beginning, I really wished I had died,” said Ciaran.
“The pain was so bad. All that kept me going was the thought that I wanted to see my son again.”
The court heard this week that Groome, who is currently on the run, and Keena attacked Ciaran.
It was claimed the attack occurred after Groome was falsely told by Ciaran’s ex-girlfriend that he was a garda informant.
Ciaran was not be found by a passer-by until three hours after the attack, somehow still conscious in a dog pen at the rear of his home.
“He [Groome] stabbed me 16 times including here … in the heart,” said Ciaran pointing to his chest.
“Then he poured the petrol on me and set me on fire. I was torched alive. But I managed to burn him too.
“I followed him out as he was going to the car and dived on him … that’s how he got burnt because some of the petrol got on him too then.”
As Groome and Keena fled the scene that night, Ciaran, bleeding heavily from his stab wounds and almost completely on fire, tried to put the flames out with water from an outside tap on the cottage wall.
“They [the flames] wouldn’t go out fully because there was still petrol on me,”
Ciaran recalled. “I can still feel the pain … it was unbelievable because where the flames were out the skin started tightening.”
Horrifically for Ciaran, the fire inside the house had spread by this stage to the extent that the water pipes burst — cutting off his supply of water.
“I knew there was water in the dog pen furthest down, because there were pups in there, so I just rolled myself over and over on the ground until I got to it.
“Then I used the water from the dog bowls to try and put the rest of the flames out.
“I stayed like that for the next three or four hours until some locals from Rhode saw the cottage in flames and came and found me.
“I was conscious that whole time … and the whole time I could feel my skin getting tighter and tighter.”
Ciaran recalls that when the ambulance arrived and he had to be moved inside, that was “the worst the pain ever got.”
“I think most people would have died,”he told the Sunday World. “I was stabbed 16 times … including in the heart. My body was completely burnt.
“I did die twice. The second time I was unresponsive for 40 minutes.”
Ciaran says that after arriving in Dublin medics placed him in an induced coma for the next three months.
“I don’t remember waking up from it,”he said.
“My whole body was in bandages. Nobody should ever suffer what I went through.”
Ciaran would undergo dozens of surgeries while spending the next three years his life in hospitals in Dublin, Tullamore and Mullingar. “I think the hardest thing in those three years was not being able to see my son,” Ciaran continued.
“At the start I wanted to die but then I changed my focus to wanting to live to see my son grow up.
“And that’s what got me to today, because his life is more important to me then mine ever will be.”
Asked how he is getting on now, Ciaran said: “I have had to learn to live with the pain.
“They [the doctors] have done as much for me as they can do.
“I have my son and I breed my dogs …that’s all I can do … that’s what helps get me through.”
This week, Keena of Carrig Mor, Ballynacargy, Mullingar, Westmeath, pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm and criminal damage by way of arson at Mr Murphy's home at Coolcor, Rhode, Co Offaly on September 7, 2015.
Describing his culpability as lower than his co-accused, Judge Karen O'Connor sentenced Keena to a prison term of six and a half years with the final 18 months suspended.
Groome went on the run last year and is yet to face trial.
He was charged with assault causing serious harm to Ciaran in Tullamore District Court in November 2015.
Sources say he has been sighted in Belfast and Liverpool. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
In court, Detective Sergeant Caroline Lyng said Ciaran’s former girlfriend was high on drugs when she informed Groome that the victim was a garda informant.
Det Sgt Lyng confirmed that there was no truth at all to this.
He told the court that the woman was concerned that Mr Murphy was in danger of being attacked and believed that by spreading this rumour she was protecting him.
After Keena was nominated as a suspect, the court heard, he made a voluntary statement to gardai three days later.
He agreed that he had travelled out to Ciaran’s house and acknowledged that he could be seen on CCTV footage stopping to buy petrol.
He claimed that when he got out to the house, he had a joint and then went to the bathroom upstairs.
He heard an argument downstairs and returned to find Mr Murphy on fire.
Det Sgt Lyng said gardaí later established that there was no bathroom in the upstairs of Mr Murphy’s home.
The officer confirmed that Keena was interviewed seven times, adding he was not co-operative during questioning.
“At one stage he ripped up Ciaran Murphy’s statement and said ‘You are hardly going to take the word of a vegetable?’” Det Sgt Lyng said.
Det Sgt Lyng accepted that in the months prior to the attack Keena had started to abuse cocaine and had moved to Mullingar to live with his mother.
She was a good support to him but she has since died of cancer.
Det Sgt Lyng agreed that Keena was quite immature at the time of the attack.
Asked whether he has been following Keena’s case, Ciaran said he hasn’t although people have told him what happened.
“I don’t want to think about that stuff any more,” he said.
“I just want to concentrate on my son and my dogs."
This week in court, Judge O'Connor said that Keena involved himself in horrendous behaviour on the night and noted the attack was pre-meditated. She said the medical reports made for horrific reading.
She said the attack had a “murky and unsavoury background” involving drug dealing in the area. She said it was impossible to imagine the terror of the attack.
The judge said that the mitigating factors were that at the time Keena was very young and had no previous convictions. She said he was abusing drugs at the time and on the night of the attack he was out celebrating his 17th birthday and was on a cocktail of cocaine and vodka.