Five days on from a knife attack on schoolchildren in Dublin, which left a five-year-old girl and a childcare worker in serious condition and sparked widespread rioting across the city, frustratingly little is known about the main suspect and his motives.
This is partly due to the man’s condition. While he was being restrained by members of the public trying to prevent him attacking more children, the 49-year-old received significant head injuries.
On being brought to hospital, he was placed in an induced coma by doctors to allow the swelling to his brain to subside. He remains in a serious condition and detectives from Mountjoy Garda station have yet to receive medical clearance to interview or arrest him.
There is some concern the man’s head injuries may have long-lasting consequences, which could impact attempts to prosecute him or even discern his motivation. Sources said it will be several days before this is known.
Some detail has emerged about the man’s time in Ireland, mostly from court records and interviews with members of the immigrant community and security sources.
He arrived here from Algeria in 2003 and applied for asylum, claiming he faced political persecution in his native country. His initial asylum request was refused and a deportation order was made. However, the man appealed to the High Court which revoked the order.
He later applied for and obtained an Irish passport and became a naturalised Irish citizen.
Little else is known of how he spent his time in Ireland. Members of the Algerian community in Dublin who spoke to the Irish Times described the man as a “loner” who was not religious and had little interaction with his compatriots.
“All we know is he is someone who is sick and not well. He was not well known in Algerian community,” said Kamel Ghamen, an Algerian man who moved to Ireland in the 1970s.
“He is just a loner. He is someone who people would know from him being in trouble before,” he added.
It is understood the man suffered from several physical and mental issues. Several years ago he had a brain tumour removed and in recent years he began interacting with mental health services. However, the exact nature of his illness is not clear.
In recent years he has lived in several addresses, sometimes for very short periods of time. During this time, he was frequently observed by gardaí hanging around the city centre.
On September 6th, 2022, he was arrested by gardaí from Store Street station for possession of a knife on North Lotts in the city centre. He was released on station bail pending a court date.
On May 14th of this year, he was again arrested by gardaí from Store Street, this time for criminal damage to a car on O’Connell Street.
He appeared in Dublin District Court on both offences on June 15th last. Records show he did not receive legal aid, indicating that he paid for his own solicitor, or he represented himself.
At the time, he listed his address as a property on the South Circular Road. However, over the weekend residents of the property said he never lived there.
The case concluded with the judge making “no order”. Making no order is relatively rare and is often done when an accused displays significant mental health issues which may explain their offending. It means the accused is left without a conviction.
While waiting to interview the suspect, gardaí investigating last Thursday’s attack seized and analysed his mobile phone and laptop. They found nothing to link him to any terrorism groups or plans to carry out an attack. However, they did discover he had a grievance with authorities over social welfare entitlements.
This, along with several other lines of inquiry, will be examined as a possible motivation for the attack.