Teenager sentenced to life for murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj

Boy, aged 14 at time of the attack, will have case reviewed after 13 years following Government statements on law reform

The 17-year-old who stabbed Urantsetseg Tserendorj to death has been detained for life with a review after 13 years following Government statements that legislation will provide new sentencing structures for juveniles convicted of serious crimes.

The teenager’s sentencing had been delayed after the trial judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that there was no provision in legislation to allow judges to suspend any portion of the defendant’s sentence.

He said the judge reviewing his case after 13 years would therefore be left with an “all or nothing” approach to either release the child without any way to incentivise good behaviour, or keep him in detention indefinitely.

Mr Justice Hunt on Monday said that he was “encouraged” by what he had heard in the media from statements made in the Dáil and by the Department of Justice.


“I have come to the view that I can derive some encouragement from ministerial and department statements since the last sentencing hearing in this unfortunate case,” Mr Justice Hunt said. “It has to be emphasised, the limit of my function is to raise issues where they touch on the business of this court.”

He said that the precise details of the reforms are a matter for the Oireachtas and added: “It is proper to have respect for these pronouncements as having substance; there will be a fully considered sentence structure for unfortunate cases such as this.”

When the Children Act was drawn up, Mr Justice Hunt said it is possible that very young people committing serious offences was not considered.

“Just because they are a small number, they are important and significant and there needs to be a proper way in which the interests of the offender and society... can be synthesised at all stages of the process.”

While saying that he knows he is “not supposed to” notice such things, the judge said it is hard not to be aware and he is going to take on board what has been said. The 13-year review, he said, will be carried out by a judge of the Central Criminal Court. In the years up to then, Mr Justice Hunt also ordered a series of probation reports leading to the final report on January 11th, 2034.

The defendant will be able to apply for parole after 12 years and Mr Justice Hunt said the review system does not preclude him from applying for parole. He added that this potential overlap is something the Oireachtas should consider when legislating for juveniles sentenced for serious crimes.

Mr Justice Hunt said that one of the “terrible realities” of the case is that the defendant will still only be 28 years old when his review comes up and he will potentially be released. “If he enjoys ordinary good fortune he will have many good years in front of him, even with all that behind him,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Hunt said the youth had done well in detention and has excellent family support. He will, however, require attention from the authorities while in detention and his “rehabilitation is something he has to work on”. He said that was the reason for the series of probation reports leading up to 2034.

Mr Justice Hunt sentenced the teenager to concurrent three and two-year sentences for five other offences committed on the same day he stabbed Ms Tserendorj and for the theft of a bicycle.

All sentences are backdated to when the 17-year-old first went into custody in January 2021.

The accused, who was 14 years old at the time of the offence and cannot be named because he is a minor, had denied the murder of Ms Tserendorj but had pleaded guilty to her manslaughter on January 29th, 2021. He was found guilty of her murder by a jury last year following two trials. The first trial ended with a jury disagreement.

Ms Tserendorj was stabbed in the neck on a walkway between George’s Dock and Custom House Quay at the IFSC, Dublin on January 20th, 2021, after the teenager attempted to rob her.

Ms Tserendorj was declared dead on the evening of January 29th, 2021, because of a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by a stab wound no bigger than 1.5cm that partially severed her carotid artery. Ms Tserendorj, who worked in Dublin’s city centre, had moved to Ireland with her husband and two children approximately 15 years before she was killed.

She was making her way home on foot on the night when she was approached by the teenager who asked for money. When she said she did not have any money, he stabbed her. When gardaí went to the defendant’s home the following day in response to a report of a stolen bicycle, the teenager told them that he was responsible for stabbing Ms Tserendorj.

At a sentencing hearing last year Detective Sergeant Brendan Casey said both of the teenager’s parents were chronic drug addicts. His grandmother gave evidence of him becoming involved in the abuse of drugs from an early age.

Det Sgt Casey said that the teenager had 31 previous convictions, including two attempted robberies and five robberies, one production of an article, one assault causing harm, and a number of drug offences.

Ms Tserendorj’s husband, Ulambayer Surenkhor, wrote a statement to the court saying that he and his family had lived happily until “that terrible tragedy”.

“I lost my beloved wife and our children lost their mother. My health has been affected by severe mental difficulties and I have heart problems. I get unstable, lose my temper, and I just want to scream. She was kind and soft like my mother, and we were each other’s first loves. That horrible day, due to the loss of her mother, my daughter is in deep emotional turmoil,” said Mr Surenkhor.

On the same night as the murder, the teenager attempted to steal a phone from another woman, Tayo Odelade. Det Sgt Casey said she resisted and swore at him, to which the teenager said he was only messing. Ms Odelade replied that he was not messing and again cursed at him. He got offended and said: “That could have been a lot worse for you.” He then took out a knife from under his jacket which she said was about five inches long. She apologised and he put the knife away and left.

The teenager was also charged with an incident that occured in a Spar shop on O’Connell Street at 5.30am on the same date. Det Sgt Casey said the teenager went to the till with sweets behind his back and said to the shopkeeper: “I have a f**king blade, what are you going to do about it?” Another employee arrived and the accused left the shop, but as he was leaving, he said: “You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

The shopkeeper, John Caulwell, made a victim impact statement in which he said: “I was petrified and feared for my safety. When he left, I was trembling, all I could think about was that I could be stabbed. I am 16 years in my business and this is the only time I thought I might be killed.”

There was a final charge against the teenager of stealing a bicycle two days earlier on January 18th at Talbot Place. Det Sgt Casey said that a woman, Yu Yu Son, was working late and she was about to get on her bike when she was approached by the teenager, who put one hand on the handlebars and one hand on the seat. He used the bike to push her, injuring her legs, before he pulled the bike from her, got on it and cycled away. Both her legs were bruised and very sore. She recognised him later and recorded an image which she shared with gardaí.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Son said: “I leave the light on when I go to bed, and whenever I see teenagers in black clothing and hats, I get afraid. I’m afraid to chat face to face with strangers.”

As part of the mitigation by defence, the teenager’s grandmother read out a letter to the court, which she said she had written to give a glimpse into the child he was.

“I am not a mother who sees no wrong in a child. I never had anything to do with crime and I don’t condone criminal behaviour,” she said.

She said her grandson used to be sports mad, excelling at hurling and boxing. She said he changed when his birth mother introduced herself to him in the street and when she did not get what she wanted from him, his mother said she would harm herself. The witness said that her grandson never returned to boxing or GAA after that and began to get into trouble at school.

“His new friends were all involved in stealing bikes and using the money to buy drugs. I got many agencies involved but nothing worked. He would be awake at night crying and made three suicide attempts,” she said.

She said that Ms Tserendorj has become part of her prayers, and the pain of watching Ms Tserendorj’s husband “brought me to my knees”.

Following today’s sentencing hearing, former Dublin mayor Hazel Chu spoke outside court on behalf of Ms Tserendorj’s family, with the deceased’s husband Ulambayer Surenkhor by her side.

She said: “We just wanted to say a big thank you to Mr Justice Hunt and to the prosecution and also to the garda liaison office. As you know it is two years since Urantsetseg Tserendorj died and today her family and her husband would like to thank the public for their support.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can freephone the Samaritans 24 hours a day for confidential support at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Alternatively, the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support.

In the case of an emergency, or if you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, dial 999/112.