Man jailed for role in ‘horrendous’ arson attack that left victim without ears

Ciarán Murphy (29) was stabbed 16 times in his Offaly home and set on fire in 2015 assault

A man has been jailed at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for his role in a ‘horrendous’ arson attack. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

A man has been jailed at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for his role in a ‘horrendous’ arson attack. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A man has been jailed for his role in a “horrendous” arson attack on a low-level drug dealer which left the victim so badly burned that he no longer has ears.

Ciarán Murphy (29) was stabbed 16 times in his Co Offaly home and set on fire after his ex-girlfriend spread a false rumour that he was a Garda informant.

He was found in a dog cage in his home by a passerby who noticed his cottage was in flames. He was left with life-threatening injuries after he suffered 96 per cent burns from his neck down and multiple stab wounds, including into his heart cavity.

He continues to suffer bleeding from some of the wounds that cover his body and his home was “completely destroyed” in the fire, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

In a victim impact statement he said the attack destroyed his life and that he sometimes wishes he had not survived. He said he wonders if the mental scarring is worse than the physical scarring.

David Keena (21) was 17 when he went with an older co-accused, who has an outstanding warrant out for his arrest, to Mr Murphy’s house. He was present when the other man allegedly stabbed the victim and poured petrol over him, the court heard.

Keena, of Carrig Mor, Ballynacargy, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm and criminal damage by way of arson at Mr Murphy’s home at Coolcor, Rhode, Co Offaly, on September 7th, 2015.

Describing his culpability as lower than that alleged of his co-accused, Judge Karen O’Connor sentenced Keena to a prison term of 6½ years with the final 18 months suspended.

She said Keena had had no other convictions at the time, but noted he is serving a partially suspended six-year prison sentence, imposed in July 2019 at Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court for a drug-dealing offence.

The sentence imposed by Ms Justice O’Connor on Wednesday will run consecutive to the 2019 sentence.

‘Accepting responsibility’

Anne Rowland SC, defending, had said her client was accepting responsibility on the basis that he aided and abetted the other accused.

Det Sgt Caroline Lyng had told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that Mr Murphy’s former girlfriend was high on drugs when she said the victim was a Garda informant.

Det Sgt Lyng confirmed there was no truth at all to this claim, but said the woman was concerned that Mr Murphy was in danger of being attacked and believed that by spreading this rumour she was protecting him.

She said that Mr Murphy was known to local gardaí at the time as a low-level drug dealer.

Ms Justice O’Connor said Keena involved himself in horrendous behaviour on the night in question and noted the attack was premeditated. She said the subsequent medical reports made for horrific reading.

She said the attack had a “murky and unsavoury background” involving drug dealing in the area. She said it was impossible to imagine the terror of the attack.

The judge said that the mitigating factors were that at the time Keena was very young and had no previous convictions. She said he was abusing drugs at the time and on the night of the attack he was out celebrating his 17th birthday and was on a cocktail of cocaine and vodka.

In the victim impact statement Mr Murphy stated that he was viciously attacked that night and left to die alone. He said he had at one stage during his medical treatment been given a 1 per cent chance of survival.

He said there were times he wished he had not survived. He said he is “consumed” with fear, anxiety, and panic attacks and his sleep pattern has never recovered.

Mr Murphy said he is in constant pain and was left with mental scarring. He lost his hair and both ears and wears beanie hats 24/7 to protect himself from “public stares” and from his own reflection. He said he will never now be able to afford his own home or car because he is unemployable and described how his relationship with his young son has suffered.

“It breaks my heart that I will never be able to play football, hurling or swim with him,” Mr Murphy said. He said the attack will “forever be etched in my mind”.