Court hears of ‘savage and vicious’ assault on elderly man

Patrick Phelan (24) jailed for eight years for kicking and punching Thomas Ryan (61) in head

Thomas Ryan (61) suffered brain injuries and died 18 months after the attack.

Thomas Ryan (61) suffered brain injuries and died 18 months after the attack.


A man has been jailed for eight years for a “savage and vicious” assault on a man who suffered serious brain injuries and died 18 months later.

Patrick Phelan (24), of Galvone Road, Limerick, was also given a further three year suspended sentence for a burglary while he was on bail for the assault.

Limerick Circuit Court heard Thomas Ryan (61) formerly of The Fairgreen in Limerick was found lying on the ground unconscious in Kennedy Park at 3am on July 10th, 2013, hours after being released from Roxboro Garda station where he had been held for his own protection after being intoxicated.

The court heard how Mr Ryan was repeatedly kicked and punched in the head by Phelan who admitted the assault having initially denied it.

Forensic evidence on Phelan’s runners showed blood from the victim, who was incapable of independent living after the attack.

Mr Ryan spent two months in hospital with a serious brain injury from which he never recovered and died in a nursing home on January 1st, 2015.

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, the victim’s sister Breda O’Callaghan said she hoped Phelan would change while in prison.

“How can somebody do that to an elderly man? He knew he was an elderly man and a small very thin man who would not be able to defend himself.”

She described her brother, the eldest of 15 children who lived in London for 25 years, as a “gentle” man who was unrecognisable after the attack.

The court heard that Mr Ryan’s mother Rita (82) suffered a massive stroke and died six months after her eldest son was assaulted.

“It broke my mother’s heart, she aged overnight. My mother was a very lively woman who loved going out for her walks....but after this happened to Thomas she just sat at the fire,” Ms O’Callaghan said.

Judge Tom O’Donnell described the attack as a savage, vicious and unprovoked assault on a defenceless man.