Young mother tells court of moment ‘evil, sadistic’ neighbour shot her three times and paralysed her for life
Campaign of abuse preceded shooting of woman in her own home while daughter (8) was presentFour of victim’s friends had called to man’s flat to tell him to leave woman along shortly before attack
A mother of one has described the moment her "evil, sadistic" neighbour – a man she has known since childhood – left her permanently paralysed in an attempted gun murder that "obliterated" her life.
The Central Criminal Court heard during today's sentence hearing that 33-year-old Dean McCarthy "burst into" Sinead Connolly's home with a gun "in a rush of adrenaline" and repeatedly shot her while her eight-year-old daughter hid under the kitchen table.
The court heard that in the lead-up to the shooting, McCarthy had subjected Ms Connolly (34) to a campaign of abuse where he regularly called her a "whore" and had grabbed her by the throat and spat in her face.
McCarthy also told her he was going to "leave her in a body bag".
Today's sentencing also heard that McCarthy was accidentally shot and seriously injured when receiving the firearm he tried to murder Ms Connolly with.
"Very menacing" CCTV footage of four masked men outside McCarthy's flat moments before the shooting was shown to the court.
One man can be seen holding up his fingers "like a pistol or a gun sign", the court heard.
Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC read a letter of apology to the court on behalf of his client, saying: "Things got out of hand quickly and although four masked men tried to force entry to my home that morning to bring me harm, you did not deserve to be hurt like that. I sincerely hope you and your daughter fully recover and I wish you both the very best.”
The barrister stressed that this was not "a planned event" and that the case exemplified most "that people should never take the law into their own hands".
McCarthy, who was Ms Connolly's neighbour, with an address at Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell Road, Dublin 12, appeared at the court today for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty last January to her attempted murder on March 6, 2021.
McCarthy also pleaded guilty today to possession of a firearm, a G9A Grand Power semi-automatic handgun, with intent to endanger life on the same date at the same location.
The defendant further pleaded guilty to having in his possession Luger Barnaul ammunition.
At the defendant's sentence hearing today, a victim-impact statement was read to the court by Ms Connolly, who had to be pushed to the stand in her wheelchair by a garda.
Ms Connolly held up a photograph of herself and her daughter, saying: "This is a photograph of how I was when I woke up [from the surgery]."
A supporter of Ms Connolly shouted at McCarthy who was in the dock: "Are you looking at that there?"
Ms Connolly's sister stood behind her and rubbed her back as she read.
The victim began her statement by saying that she was at home with her daughter and some friends when McCarthy "burst" into her house with a gun "in a cowardly attempt to murder me".
"I was shot three times and as a result, I have been left paralysed; paralysed forever,” she said.
“Another serious consequence of this heinous act is I have a high dependency on a multitude of pharmaceuticals and almost 100pc reliance on other people, both medical staff and family.
"We were making plans for my daughter's eighth birthday a few days after this frenzied and evil attack which changed our lives forever.
"I have known Dean McCarthy since we were small children and he lived next door.
"He subjected me and my daughter to constant abuse, spitting mucus on my windows.
"His delusionary sense of power transformed him into the epitome of a bully who subjected both me and my daughter to this bullying.
"Dean McCarthy burst into my home firing at me. The three bullets that hit me all caused serious damage. One shattered my collarbone, another broke several ribs and one punctured my lung and shattered my spine.
"A team of surgeons worked relentlessly for over 12 hours to keep me alive. The head of the ICU, who had 40 years’ experience, later said they were the most catastrophic injuries he had ever seen.
"Two days later I had another major spinal operation to try to maintain rigidity of the shattered spine using steel rods and bolts. I remained in a coma for another 15 days which caused tremendous grief and anxiety to my whole family and close friends as my life hung in the balance.
‘Abject cruelty and evil’
"Nobody could understand such abject cruelty and manifest evil.
"My mother later suffered a stroke which I believe was brought on by everything that happened as she was my main caregiver.
"To make matters worse, I had to undergo a tracheotomy which rendered me speechless and unable to eat or drink.
"I couldn't communicate with anyone, including my daughter. This caused me heightened consternation. This was made worse by the fact that I didn't know the full extent of my injuries.”
Ms Connolly continued: "Since this attempt on my life I have had to endure constant medical problems, almost perpetual infections, low blood pressure and panic attacks.
"The pain is not limited to physical. It is obviously emotional, both for me and my daughter.
"We have had to separate from each other and I have had to relinquish my parenting role and my responsibility for my daughter's well-being. This is extremely hard because we are so close.
“My daughter has had to leave home and change schools but no child should ever have to witness her mother covered in blood, lying unconscious on the floor.
"All these things that we take for granted, such as lifting our kids, going to the seaside, swimming, climbing, dancing together are all beyond my physical ability. Any plans we had were diminished by Dean McCarthy.
"I have remained in hospital for nearly 13 months now and I am unsure how long this will be for.
"Dean McCarthy is an evil, sadistic and cowardly bully. Dean McCarthy is a danger to society. He tried to kill me and even though he didn't he has obliterated both mine and my family's life. He deserves the severest punishment in law."
At today's sentence hearing, Garda Sergeant Tom Cooney of Kilmainham garda station detailed the background to the attempted murder.
He told prosecution counsel Anne Marie Lawlor SC that McCarthy was Ms Connolly's neighbour and lived immediately adjacent to her in a block of flats in Bluebell.
The sergeant said he could not take a statement from Ms Connolly until 15 days after the shooting as she was in a coma.
He said the victim had been shot twice but five bullets were discharged in her home.
Outlining the events that led up to the incident, Ms Lawlor said that McCarthy received a firearm from a man known as "Mr B", who had attended at Bernard Curtis House that day. McCarthy used this weapon to shoot Ms Connolly.
Gardaí learned from Ms Connolly that she and McCarthy had known each other for a significant period of time from living in their respective homes and growing up together in the area.
According to Sgt Cooney, Ms Connolly said that the defendant had indicated some degree of aggression towards her in the preceding months and would "whack" his arm off her and call her names in front of her eight-year-old daughter.
Ms Lawlor told the court: "He would regularly call her a ‘whore’ and grab her by the throat and spit in her face.
"One of the last occasions Ms Connolly met him prior to March 6 he told her he was going to leave her in a body bag and she said she felt like he wanted her dead.”
On March 6, the court heard, preparations for a birthday party were being made and arrangements were in place that four friends would call to Ms Connolly's home. There was some indication that Ms Connolly's daughter would go to Belfast to Ms Connolly's partner Vincent Kelly.
Ms Connolly told gardaí that because of the escalating situation and concern for her safety with McCarthy, she wanted her four friends "to knock into" the defendant's flat and "ask him to stop".
At 12.42pm that day, Ms Connolly's four male friends, who were wearing face masks at the time, knocked at McCarthy's flat.
There was no answer and the four men returned to Ms Connolly's flat next door.
The four men knocked again at 12.48pm but again there was no answer.
At 12.41pm and 12.53pm, there was phone contact between the accused and Mr B and a “Mr M”.
At 12.45pm, Mr B, who was carrying a firearm, met McCarthy in his flat. McCarthy then emerged from his flat and appears to be clutching himself, said Ms Lawlor.
Sgt Cooney said that in the course of the exchange of the firearm between the two men it appeared that the firearm was discharged and McCarthy was shot.
Immediately after this McCarthy and Mr B "kicked in" the door of Ms Connolly's home. Three minutes later, an ambulance was called.
The court heard that when McCarthy kicked down the door and entered the victim's flat, Ms Connolly was in the sitting room and her four friends were in the kitchen with her daughter. The kitchen door was barricaded and the child was put under the table.
McCarthy discharged the firearm on five separate occasions. Ms Connolly was standing when she was shot but ultimately fell onto the couch. One of the bullets went through her body while she was on the couch before travelling into the wall behind her.
"It went clean through her and that bullet caused her to be a paraplegic," said Ms Lawlor.
Ms Connolly described to gardaí how she wanted to keep McCarthy's attention on her at the time rather than her daughter who was in the kitchen.
The court heard that three bullets were discharged in the sitting room and they went into the walls of the room. A fourth bullet was discharged above the kitchen door, which entered the fridge door and ricocheted inside the kitchen, while another bullet went into the kitchen door.
The bullet which went into Ms Connolly as she sat on the couch had a slightly downward trajectory which reflected her position at the time, namely standing opposite the shooter. Ms Connolly told gardaí that McCarthy had "done it" when she was on the couch.
McCarthy and Mr B retreated from Ms Connolly's flat and disposed of the firearm in the flats assisted by Mr M. The firearm was retrieved the next day.
There was a trail of blood between Ms Connolly and McCarthy's flats, which was consistent with the defendant having received a bullet wound. McCarthy went to St James's Hospital where he stayed until April 29. He was then arrested and interviewed on four occasions.
Ms Lawlor said that McCarthy provided a pre-prepared statement to gardaí, saying he had been under threat and bullied for over two years by certain people in the Bluebell area.
A statement from Ms Connolly's treating physician said that she was admitted to intensive care at 4pm on March 6 having sustained multiple gunshot wounds to her upper body.
She had significant pulmonary haemorrhage from the gunshot wounds and after surgery it became apparent that she was not moving her lower limbs.
A CT scan showed a spinal fracture in her upper spine and she was transferred to the spinal unit at the Mater Hospital on March 8 to stabilise her thoracic spine. The court heard that the injuries she sustained seem unlikely to be reversible and have changed her life.
She remains to this day in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire, the court heard.
Ms Connolly's daughter is in the care of her sister and the victim has never been in a position to return to live in her home.
The court heard she sustained a ballistic wound resulting in a burst fracture of the T3 vertebra and required surgical fixation of her spinal fractures.
As a result of this injury, she is paraplegic and had a neurogenic bladder and bowel.
She requires a wheelchair for all mobility and needs to use alternate methods to manage her bladder and bowel.
Her life expectancy is also reduced by the injury and she will remain with all of the above impairments.
Referring to Mr B and Mr M, Sgt Cooney said that one of them had taken a trial date and the other a mention date. Neither have entered pleas before the court.
The court heard that McCarthy has 12 previous convictions, all at District Court level, which include possession of knives, criminal damage and road traffic matters.
Under cross-examination, the sergeant agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC that the "stand-out thing" from this case is that Ms Connolly has been left in a wheelchair with various medical complications.
Sgt Cooney also agreed with the barrister that matters had "boiled over" between Ms Connolly and his client that day and there was "something of a dispute simmering in the background". "Yes, matters were fraught," said the witness.
The sergeant further agreed with counsel that some "very unsavoury comments" had been made by the accused towards Ms Connolly and on occasions when they encountered each other there was hostility between them.
"He was name-calling her and he might jostle her with her shopping if he met her on the stairs," said Mr Grehan.
The court heard that Ms Connolly had never made any complaints to gardaí about McCarthy's behaviour.
CCTV footage of the four men outside McCarthy's flat that day was played to the court.
Mr Grehan called the CCTV "very menacing" and said it showed four men wearing caps and face masks arriving at McCarthy's flat shortly before the incident at 12.42pm and 12.48pm.
Mr Grehan said it showed the men banging on McCarthy's door, waiting outside but getting no response. He said one man can be seen holding up his fingers "like a pistol or a gun sign".
Sgt Cooney agreed that the four men remained outside McCarthy's door for four minutes before returning to Ms Connolly's flat.
Six minutes after the men left, the defendant made contact with another man who arrives at his flat with a pistol.
The defendant can then be seen coming out of his flat holding his side and going to Ms Connolly's flat.
Sgt Cooney said it was a "fair conclusion" that McCarthy got shot in "the hand-over" of the gun from the man who had brought the weapon up the stairs.
Mr Grehan said his client was seriously injured but not as seriously injured or with life-changing consequences which Ms Connolly had suffered.
Mr Grehan put it to the sergeant that after being arrested, his client told gardaí that in desperation he had got a firearm but never intended to use it and only wanted to protect himself and his home.
On the day McCarthy said he went to Bernard Curtis House to scare people who he thought had been trying to get into his flat and only wanted to show them the gun so they would leave him alone.
McCarthy said he never meant for anybody to get hurt and only wanted to show them the gun so they would leave him alone.
McCarthy told gardaí that he never meant for anybody to get hurt and there was a struggle in the flat and the gun went off.
Sgt Cooney said he did not believe there was a struggle with the gun.
Mr Grehan continued putting it to the sergeant that McCarthy told gardaí that he was not used to the gun and did not own it.
McCarthy told gardai that he never wanted to hurt anybody and just wanted them to leave him alone. "He is disgusted at himself for what happened. There was never a plan to go into the flat. It just happened," said the lawyer.
The witness agreed that McCarthy went into Ms Connolly's flat as a consequence of the four men arriving outside his door. He also agreed that there was "no plan in being" on the part of his client for what happened that day.
Mr Grehan said McCarthy told gardaí that he hoped Ms Connolly makes a full recovery and that whilst they never got on, he would not have wished what happened on her and that he was genuinely sorry.
In mitigation, Mr Grehan said "no one seeks to make light of what happened to Ms Connolly or seeks to justify it anyway".
The barrister said his client was on antipsychotic medication and had lapsed from taking it at the time. Part of his symptoms involve McCarthy getting paranoid in relation to matters, he said.
Remanded in custody
Mr Grehan then read a letter of apology written by his client which said: "I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to Sinead and her family after the incident we found ourselves in last month.
"I'm disgusted by my actions on that day and need you to know that I had no intentions of entering your flat prior to being shot accidentally.
"I completely lost all sense of reality, and had I known you and your daughter were in the flat I would have went straight to the hospital as I know now that's what I should have done.
"I can never take back what happened, all I can do is offer my deepest apologies to you and your family and tell you I never intended things to go that far. The whole situation was a complete nightmare from beginning to end and will haunt me until the day I die.
"It breaks my heart your daughter seen you in that state of health over my actions but had I known she was in the other room I would have left immediately, even in the state of shock I was in. I only found out she was in the flat days after I woke up after my surgery.
"Things got out of hand quickly and although four masked men tried to force entry to my home that morning to bring me harm, you did not deserve to be hurt like that. I sincerely hope you and your daughter fully recover and I wish you both the very best".
Mr Grehan said everything was "dwarfed" by the appalling injuries that Ms Connolly suffered.
He submitted to the court that his client had entered an early guilty plea and had apologised to Ms Connolly which "may pale into significance given what she has gone through".
Mr Grehan stressed that this case exemplifies most that people should never take the law into their own hands.
"This was not a planned event, this was something which resulted from four masked men coming to McCarthy's door minutes before his client stupidly called for assistance and a friend of his arrived with a gun. In a rush of adrenaline McCarthy rushed for Ms Connolly's flat and when the four men were not to be seen, she bore the consequences of what happened," he added.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott remanded McCarthy in custody until April 26, when he will be sentenced.
This story was updated on April 8, 2022
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