Man goes on trial accused of assaulting woman and pretending to be a garda

Declan McGowan (33), of Branswood, Athy, Co Kildare, pleads not guilty to the charges

A man has gone on trial accused of trying to get a woman to get into his car while pretending to be a garda.

Declan McGowan (33), of Branswood, Athy, Co Kildare, has pleaded not guilty to attempted coercion of a woman, assault of the woman and impersonating a member of An Garda Síochána. He also denies assaulting the woman's husband causing him harm.

All the offences are alleged to have taken place at Kimmage Road Lower, Dublin, on September 18th last.

On the first day of Mr McGowan's trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Andra Caluz, a 25-year-old Romanian national living in Ireland for nine years, described being approached by the man when she was outside her home on the Lower Kimmage Road at about 2.30am on the date in question.

Ms Caluz was smoking a cigarette outside her apartment and was talking on FaceTime to her husband, Daniel Ion, who was in their apartment with their children. As she was walking, she said a man drew up in a car and began talking to her. He told her he was a garda and told her to get into the car, she said.

She described Mr McGowan taking her by the hand, kissing it and trying to get her to go into his car. “I was thinking a policeman would not do that.” She testified that he said he had a gun in the car.

Speaking with the help of an interpreter, she told John Moher BL, prosecuting, that she felt very scared and pressurised. She said that when her husband came out the man grabbed him by the throat and said that Ms Caluz was going with him and that her husband should go home and look after the children.

‘Came to help’

During cross-examination, Garnet Orange SC, defending, put it to the witness that his client had been driving past, saw her in distress, turned around and came to help her.

“No, I am talking into phone but I am not crying or stressed. I was very clear. I live here, I am okay. I am not crying . . . He said, ‘I am the police; you have document?’ and I said yes and gave him my ID,” she replied.

She denied saying to Mr McGowan that her husband went with other women and denied that her husband slapped her on the face when he appeared on the scene.

“Only the man [Mr McGowan] is fighting, and my husband is very, very scared,” said Ms Caluz.

Mr Orange put it to her that his client believed he was trying to help her. The witness replied: “I don’t quite believe in this.”

Video call

Mr Ion described how, while his wife was outside smoking, they continued talking on the phone. He said he saw Mr McGowan pull up on the video call and he went down to his wife but was immediately attacked by the accused.

“He just put his hand on my neck and [was] choking; with one hand, without saying nothing,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe and I got shocked. I was scared.” He said his wife “started to cry”.

Ms Caluz was telling Mr McGowan to leave him alone, the court heard. Mr Ion said Mr McGowan showed him a tattoo on his arm and said he was a “special agent, like a cop”.

“He said, ‘I am undercover; you don’t believe me, I show you a gun,’” Mr Ion told the court.

He said he felt at the time that Mr McGowan was either a corrupt cop or “a dangerous man”. He said Mr McGowan was talking loudly, telling him to go to his children or he would call Tusla and they would be taken away.

He said he told Mr McGowan two or three times to let his wife go and said to his wife that, whatever happens, she should not get into the car.

Mr Ion said he saw some people in a nearby park and went to them. One had a phone and he used it to call gardaí. By this stage, Mr McGowan was “screaming” at his wife to get into the car, Mr Ion said. He said gardaí came very quickly in response to his call.

Questioned by Mr Orange, Mr Ion denied ever taking drugs or excessively drinking. He said he had never slapped his wife or cheated on her. He denied ever saying to Mr McGowan: “Don’t f**k with the Romanians.”

The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury.