A man who attacked an 86-year-old woman by putting her inside a wheelie bin after the victim had got lost en route to her Ranelagh home late at night has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
The court heard that Alex Bailey (30) was experiencing induced psychosis due to his level of intoxication and was under “the delusional belief that the victim was a predatory paedophile”.
Bailey met Marie MacGowan, who had early onset dementia, in Ranelagh around 2am after she got lost on her way to her home.
CCTV footage showed he remained in her company for over an hour. The footage shows Bailey assaulting Ms MacGowan sporadically for 42 minutes, including knocking her to the ground, putting her head first into a wheelie bin and applying pressure to the lid of the bin.
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The bin fell over, and as Ms MacGowan tries to get out, she was punched in the face and kicked to the body, Garda Paul O’Donnell told the court.
The woman feared she was going to be killed and later told gardaí: “I really thought I was going to be dead.”
Counsel for Bailey said his client had taken a significant number of intoxicants on the night, which led to “induced psychosis”, and he was under “the delusional belief that the victim was a predatory paedophile”.
Bailey believed the woman was a man dressed up as a woman, Patrick Gageby, SC, defending, told the court.
Garda O’Donnell told Paddy Jackson BL, prosecuting, that three students passed by and came to Ms MacGowan’s assistance. At this point, she was sitting on the kerb with her feet stretched out into a cycle lane. Her face and hands were covered in blood, and she was shaking.
A compilation of the footage was shown to the court, which shows Bailey standing nearby as the three students tried to help Ms MacGowan. Bailey can be seen engaging in conversation with the group before walking away.
Garda O’Donnell said Ms MacGowan told the students that Bailey had assaulted her and taken her wallet. He had left the scene before emergency services arrived.
Bailey was arrested after gardaí secured hours of CCTV footage. They traced his steps from the time he left work that evening before he spent some time in a number of pubs in the Dublin 2 and Dublin 6 area and ultimately met the victim. He wore the same clothing throughout.
Ms MacGowan was later treated for a fractured nose and blood loss. She had been diagnosed with early onset dementia but was living independently in Cullenswood at the time. She has since had to move into a nursing home because she struggles with her balance following the attack and needs constant care due to a risk of her falling.
Bailey of Claragh, Ramelton, Donegal pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Ms MacGowan, causing her harm, in Ranelagh on September 1st, 2022 . He also admitted robbery of cash and false imprisonment.
Bailey was arrested 12 days after the attack. He has no previous convictions and was in full-time employment up to the attack.
A victim impact statement from Jack MacGowan, Ms MacGowan’s son, said leaving his mother in a bin that night “nearly killed her”. “It has impacted her life in a major way and significantly reduced her quality of life.”
His mother was traumatised and unable to walk for weeks. She lost her sense of balance and required 24/7 specialist care for four months.
His mother was obsessed with her “near-death experience” and repeated regularly, “Please stop killing me,” and “Are you trying to kill me?” She suffered regular bouts of physical shaking and did not sleep well.
Mr MacGowan said the incidents of physical shaking have since reduced considerably but his mother has become withdrawn and is unable to walk unaided. Due to “fall risks”, she is no longer able to live independently and had to move to a nursing home.
He said she has lost her confidence and her dementia has worsened, is highly unlikely to leave the nursing home and is sad and depressed. “Many times, it seems as if she has given up,” the statement continued.
Prior to the attack, his mother really did not want to lose her independence and led “quite a fulfilling social life”.
Gda O’Donnell agreed with Mr Gageby that Bailey told the students that came to help Ms McGowan to keep away from her and that she was dangerous and a paedophile.
Mr Gageby handed in a book of testimonials into court and a psychiatric report. He said his client had consumed a significant number of intoxicants that night and suffered a memory blackout.
He said, as a result of his intoxication, Bailey had “induced psychosis” and was under “the delusional belief that the victim was a predatory paedophile”.
Counsel said his client was “deeply sorry for the pain and suffering he has caused” and has since “fully engaged with the Rutland Centre” to deal with his alcohol and drug misuse. He had €10,000 in court to offer as a token of his remorse.
Passing sentence on Friday, Judge Crowe said this 30-year-old man with a previously unblemished record is now before the court for assault causing harm to a then 86-year-old woman whom he robbed, punched, kicked and threw into a wheelie bin.
She said the aggravating factors were the nature and duration of the offence, the age of the injured party and the injuries she sustained.
The judge took into consideration mitigating factors including Bailey’s early guilty plea, the fact that the injured party did not need to give evidence, his remorse, his good work history and the considerable work he has done while in custody to rehabilitate himself.
The judge treated the assault as the principal offence and took the offence of robbery into consideration. This was on the higher range of offending and the maximum sentence was five years.
Judge Crowe sentenced him to three years in prison, backdated from when he went into custody. To incentivise Bailey, she suspended the final six months on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years post-release, abstain from all alcohol and drugs and attend the Rutland Centre for one-year post-release and agree to random urine testing.
Ms MacGowan did not wish to accept €10,000 brought to court by Bailey as a token of his remorse and that sum will be donated to The Royal Hospital in Donnybrook, where she received rehabilitation treatment.